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Search Results for: false boast

The Coalition’s False Employment Boast

Bill Shorten addressed the National Press Club on Tuesday and committed a future Labor government to a policy of full employment. When asked by Leigh Sales on ABC’s 7.30 Tuesday evening what he considered to be an acceptable unemployment level, he said 5%.

It was a safe answer, but not the right answer. Full employment should mean just that; he should have answered, 0%. Full employment means a full time job for everyone who wants one and a part time job for everyone who wants one.

Anything less is not full employment. Whether or not Bill Shorten understands this, is open to conjecture. But on the other side of the parliamentary chamber, they don’t even care. Full employment is anathema to conservative, neo-classical politics.

Their most recent mantra, ‘jobs and growth’ is a smokescreen to hide their conviction that a minimum level of unemployment (somewhere between 5-8%), is needed to maintain an orderly workforce and control wages growth.

The present level has been hovering around 6% for the last two years and is probably right on the mark for them, evidenced by their lack of interest in reducing it.

Unemployment dropped to 5.8% for February due to a steep fall in the participation rate, but the trend figures are not encouraging, even worse when we compare February 2016 results with September 2013, when the Coalition came to office.

The ambivalence demonstrated by the government on the issue of employment is breathtaking. That the MSM allows them to get away with it, is outrageous.

Michaelia-Cash-_-glamour_-21Mar14-rex_b_810x540Minister for Employment, Michaela Cash salivated recently over the claim that 300,000 new jobs had been created in 2015, but could not point to one convincing government initiative  that had contributed to it. Well, let’s take a closer look at those figures.

You may remember one of Tony Abbott’s core election promises in 2013 was the creation of one million jobs over the next five years and two million jobs in ten years.

What he didn’t tell us was that natural population growth plus immigration requires around 125,000 new jobs to be created each year just to maintain existing levels of employment. Boasting to create one million jobs in five years sounds impressive, but in reality, it barely covers the minimum required.

And, as it happens, they have Buckley’s chance of achieving that.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show the September 2013 unemployment rate was 5.7% in trend terms. At that time there were 706,400 unemployed. In February 2016, unemployment was trending at 5.8% with 736,600 people unemployed, meaning unemployment has increased by 30,200 over the past 2 years and 5 months.

The same ABS reports show that 11,646,800 persons were employed in Australia in September 2013, while in February 2016 that number was 11,903,100. This tells us that there were 256,000 new jobs created over the past 2 years and 5 months (a big drop from that short term 300,000 in one year boast).

However, it gets worse. From an available workforce in September 2013 of 12,353,200 we grew in numbers to 12,639,700 in February 2016, an increase of 286,500. Which means the 256,000 new jobs created have failed to keep pace with population growth, let alone reduce existing unemployment.

By any language or spin, this is a failure of government to sufficiently stimulate the economy.

tonyabbottTony Abbott’s 1,000,000 new jobs in 5 years was a pipe dream. He, or whoever came up with it, might as well have dreamt it.

No doubt Scott Morrison will put the usual optimistic spin on the latest figures but when proper comparisons are made, one can clearly see, that in trend terms, we are going in the wrong direction.

The state and the economy

By Evan Jones  

Right-wing governments splashing the cash in gay abandon – what gives?

Sydney Morning Herald journalist Matt Wade finished a recent article with: “In the shadow of a pandemic, we’ll have to get used to a bigger role for government in the economy”.

Quite, and not for the first time. Although perhaps what Wade meant is ‘a different role for government in the economy’. Residents of New South Wales are familiar with the over-arching activism of successive Liberal-National governments in this State since 2011 in plundering public property and in privileging developers, miners and rapacious elements of the rural sector. In Sydney, infrastructural monstrosities rule unhindered. More of this we don’t need.

Similarly, Americans are all too familiar with the leviathan that is the military-industrial-intelligence complex that not merely destabilises the globe but impoverishes the American millions who foot the bill.

The evolving imprint of the state

Behind Wade’s suggestion is an issue of historical import. Hark back two hundred years in Britain, experiencing industrialisation and urbanisation at a furious pace. What were the forces of ‘free enterprise’ doing at the time? Employing people under intolerable conditions and housing them in spec-built tenements in intolerable conditions.

From such conditions there arose dysentery, typhus, typhoid fever, smallpox, whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and … (Asiatic!) cholera. Infant mortality raged. Herbert Spencer was hardly born, Darwinism a future creed, so time was not yet ripe for Social Darwinists to posit the inevitability and justice of the survival of the fittest, although the Rev Thomas Malthus was much quoted in support of that cause. Instead we got the consummate bureaucrat Edwin Chadwick’s 1842 Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Classes.

Chadwick highlighted, predictably, that suffering differed across the classes, but he also highlighted that the privileged classes were not immune. Horrors. Meanwhile the denizens of ‘the private sector’ were in their counting houses and reposing on estates acquired from an impoverished gentry. Here was a problem of the collective, and the entity evolving to pursue the collective interest, the state, had to step into the breach. By default.

This was a period that some economic historians had designated ‘the age of laissez-faire’, but there never was such a period. The state was dismantling timeworn structures at the behest of an ascendant bourgeoisie. Yet before that task was completed the state was confronted with problems arising structurally from the new order.

In 1833 there was legislated the Factory Act, which restricted the use of child labour in textile mills. That in itself was the product of thirty years of manoeuvring, and a foretaste of more factory Acts to come.

Since that time, the state has never ceased to pick up the pieces, direct traffic of a wayward economy and society. Its bailiwick – economic development and infrastructure, economic crises, natural calamities, scams of every description, class conflict, social deprivation, war and the aftermath of war, etc.

For example, in the late nineteenth century some governments instituted compulsory primary education, beginning an edifice of significant long term expense and administration demands. The motivation was complex. Employers demanded rudimentary skills even of the lower echelons of their workforce. Moreover, with the onset of adult (male) franchise, reluctantly ceded, the lower orders had to be educated as to what was right and proper.

The establishment and maintenance of economic and social order thus proved to be jolly hard work, an enterprise in progress, with a global dimension involving a system of states.

Thus has ensued a quantitative increase in the state’s presence, in terms of expenditures, and perennial qualitative transformations in the nature and subjects of regulations – all of which are the object of political and social contestation.

The state is hydra-headed. At root is the natural prerogative of states to make war, and to promote its economic interests abroad. The state, as a matter of course, will privilege the powerful (Engels, 1884: ‘… the state arose from the need to hold class antagonisms in check, but as it arose, at the same time, in the midst of the conflict of these classes, it is, as a rule, the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class …). The state will also, less regularly, privilege the less powerful and the dispossessed. From this latter category came the building blocks of the modern ‘welfare state’.

The sources for Marx and Engel’s generalisation were self-evident – as in the brutal repression of agitation for worker rights and political reform, as in the barbaric 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. Previously, the British state oversaw centuries of enclosure movements by which a working class was forcibly created. State-legitimised class rule was embodied in the carry over and enforcement of Master-Servant statutes which structured workplace subordination and incidentally formed the basis for modern employment law.

As to contrary tendencies with the state attending to the less powerful, some state personnel had altruistic motives, but the majority were strategically more visionary. It was necessary to give a little, make concessions to the pressure from below and its supporters to prevent social breakdown and to maintain the social order. This was ‘intelligent conservatism’ (in the true sense of the label) at work – a label now difficult to understand as the breed and the mentality have been utterly obliterated from within the Right by the forces of reaction.

Such developments were not driven by ideas but facts on the grounds. Political processes in turn produced defensive philosophies and ideologies. Thus in late 19th Century Britain a dysfunctional classical liberalism was countered by a philosophical ‘social liberalism’ – as in the works of T. H. Green and, most accessibly, of Leonard Hobhouse. In Australia, we would later call this mentality ‘small-l liberalism’.

In the 20th Century, the pressure of events (crisis) and a social liberalist mindset operated dialectically to produce J. M. Keynes and his path-breaking analysis of an economic system behind the 1930s Depression. Ditto William Beveridge’s monumental overseeing of the creation of Britain’s National Health Service during World War II.

The state’s role through a glass darkly

The general public has been inadequately apprised of the nature of this long term evolution of the role of the state. Compounding the issue of gaps in general education has been persistent misrepresentation and deception.

The state in the economy is obtusely labelled ‘government intervention’, implicitly imparting an unnatural character to the state as actor.

Austrian economist and philosopher Frederick Hayek pushed the concept of ‘spontaneous order’. Rational autonomous individuals, acting out of self-interest with no bonds of formal cooperation, ‘collectively’ generate an ordered structure. The ‘market’ (always in the abstract) and the price mechanism are the impersonal means to this outcome. Don’t mess with it and all will be well. In the human domain, it is a concept both ahistorical and preposterous.

The much-feted Milton Friedman, in his (with wife Rose) much-feted 1980 Free to Choose, has it that the evolution of the role of the state in 20th Century US is due to the influence of the Socialist Party in the Century’s first decades. Friedman claims that although inconsequential electorally, “both major parties [henceforth] adopted the position of the Socialist party” (p.334). A proposition too ludicrous for words.

Down under, the key role of the state in the development of the 19th Century white settler economy is curiously labelled ‘colonial socialism’.

A sterling example of misrepresentation comes from the reconstruction of the economy in what became West Germany after 1949. According to the pundits, here was Exhibit A for the merits of financial orthodoxy coupled with a conscientious application of the homegrown ‘ordoliberalism’ (a Christian Democrat variation on a ‘free market’ theme). On the contrary. Andrew Shonfield’s 1965 Modern Capitalism, sadly neglected, sets the story right (p.274-5):

“… when the German Government intervened to accelerate the growth of certain sectors of the economy, it went to great lengths to present the matter … as if it derived from or supplemented some primary private initiative [unlike in France]. Indeed the German Government seemed at times almost to be trying to disguise what it was doing even from itself. …

“While the Ministry of Finance was busy keeping house, and conscientiously disregarding the effect that this frugal exercise might have on the rest of the economy, the Ministry of Economics was most actively intervening wherever opportunities for more production, aided by strategically placed subsidies or tax concessions, presented themselves. Rarely can a ministry so vociferously devoted to the virtues of economic liberalism and market forces have taken so vigorous a part in setting the direction and selecting the targets of economic development.”

This misrepresentation subsequently played a significant part in the terms of the construction of the European Union (under American suzerainty), ultimately under West German (later unified German) domination. The parlous effects of this gigantic sleight of hand are played out daily in the structured asymmetry of benefits from the Union.

Compounding the lack of understanding is the economics profession and its tentacled influence. The typical tertiary training in economics gives one no exposure whatsoever to the state. At best, the state exists as a deus ex machina handing down ‘macroeconomic policy’, perhaps the odd extra function exposed in an optional course that few take, but that’s it. It’s a monumental scandal, but internal dissent generally gets quashed, and the hallowed principle of academic freedom ensures that it the ‘profession’ is secure from outside forces. The sub-discipline of economic history previously offered some insight, even if over-populated by mainstream economic historians (c/f. ‘colonial socialism’). As economics departments were subsumed within business schools, the far-sighted new managerial class decided that economic history was dispensable. History is irrelevant.

More, said ill-tutored economics graduates staff, indeed stuff, key parts of the public service, especially the central agencies and the regulatory agencies. They become cogs in arms of the state of whose functions, history, capacity and limitations they are oblivious.

Beyond the perennial obfuscation is a larger project of denial.

If you want to bash the state you have two prominent, albeit divergent, schools to draw on (n.b. anarchism has been written out of history, so that doesn’t count). One is the US-based ‘Economic Theory of Politics’ school, for whom the late James Buchanan is a guru. The state is bloated and the source of this parlous situation is the unceasing demands of the masses on their governments. The problem is democracy itself, which will have to be dramatically straight-jacketed. Not unsurprisingly, Buchanan and fellow travellers have apoplexy over some activities of the state (welfare, affirmative action) and not others (the military, corporate welfare). Buchanan was instrumental in the counter-democratic refashioning of Chile’s constitution under Pinochet, against which the Chilean people are currently rebelling.

The second school draws its intellectual lineage heavily from the post-World War I Austrian School (Ludwig von Mises). This school boasts a phalanx of foot soldiers of purist libertarian persuasion, many of whom are curiously comfortably employed in corporate-funded ‘think tanks’ (c.f The Institute of Public Affairs, Hoover Institution, etc.) and press themselves regularly into the mainstream media with their homilies. For this mob, the significant role of the state in modern capitalism has all been a huge mistake and unnecessary.

One of the better informed of this latter mob is the much-published Richard Higgs. His 1987 book Crisis and Leviathan captures its substance in the title. Higgs argues that, at key junctures, crises that are ‘manageable’ are either overblown or non-existent crises manufactured so that the state apparatus can be dramatically and permanently expanded. Higgs’ argument is not without merit, drawing empirical support at this very moment as governments (France, Hungary, Israel) cynically use the Covid-19 emergency to develop nascent authoritarian tendencies into a fully blown police state. Indeed, Higgs’ argument provides substance for why those who postulate the possibility of ‘false flag’ operations by government operatives, universally denigrated as deranged ‘conspiracy theorists’, might occasionally have just cause.

But there is something essentially pathological about the libertarian set, with its vision of the ideal state illusory. The evolution of the role of the state in the West over the last two hundred years, in general rather than in particulars, has been inevitable. A strong state, for both good and bad, has been essential to the functioning of the capitalist economy. Finding an acknowledgement of that fact anywhere outside of select academic literature is a near impossibility.

The age of neoliberalism

Hawke/Keating Labor ushered in the neoliberal era in Australia, and John Howard determinedly cemented it. On the Liberal side, Howard tenaciously cleared out the small-l liberals in their midst. In Labor ranks, nobody had the courage to question the Hawke/Keating legacy (even with Hawke’s death, but Keating is still there to kick heads). Advisory staff to both major Parties would have been born the day before yesterday and have been suckled in the neoliberal age. Public servants, especially the newly fragilised Senior Executive Service, adopted the correct line to save their jobs and pay their mortgages.

Rod Clement, Australian Financial Review, 10 December 1999

This is ground zero. The past is irrelevant. An age of stunning intellectual vacuity. Exemplary for the age is the opening stanza of the fat 1981 Campbell Report into the Australian Financial System: ‘The Committee starts from the view that the most efficient way to organise economic activity is through a competitive market system which is subject to a minimum of regulation and government intervention’. Brilliant!

There ushered in through the front door an army of vested interests, hiding behind a front of ignorant but zealous ideologues. The arguments were all bullshit, floating on thin air. Neoliberalist tenets, unlike those of classical liberalism, had no organic relation with existing conditions. It was a vehicle for plundering public assets, exploiting small business, undermining hard-won workforce conditions and dismantling the hard-won welfare state.

Whitlam Labor created the Industries Assistance Commission to deal with a specific issue needing reform but entrenched an ideological coven. Hawke/Keating Labor reprieved it, gave it a universal brief as the renamed Industry Commission, and Howard had only to tweak the beast into the Productivity Commission. No other country has ever granted so much responsibility for ‘intelligence’ to a single unreconstructed think tank. Couple that with the massive out-sourcing of ‘intelligence’ to private consultants (now especially the Big Four ex-accounting firms) and one has an environment in which policy options are systematically truncated, alternatives still-born.

The neoliberal era was not a move to ‘the small state’. Rather, it involved a reorientation of a strong state to significantly different priorities – essentially catering to the wishlist of corporate capital. In the process political personnel and bureaucratic personnel have decapacitated the state apparatus to effect robust management of any crisis, leave alone to effect progressive change.

Representative was the Coalition’s belligerent indifference to the impact of climate change and to expert pressure on the need to prepare for impending bushfire devastation. Other reflections of this mentality are the Coalition’s attempted discrediting of Rudd Labor’s modest post-GFC stimulus, the deeply imbalanced economic relationship with China, the impoverishment of public infrastructure, workplace conditions and welfare, and the governing Coalition’s absurd mid-2019 tax cuts while tolerating widespread corporate tax evasion.

It is welcome then that this federal government, intrinsically reactionary, prone to lassitude, ignorant, arrogant in its ignorance, has turned on the sluice gates. For lack of grounding, it is forced into the ultimate in pragmatism, dependent on a federal Treasury out of its depth.

But will it change its ways after this crisis relents? There’s no evidence, as there is no evidence of such to date in any other country. With a nasty budget black hole, that ‘bigger role’ will, in all likelihood, not be turned to permanently enhancing Newstart or abolishing Robodebt siphoning but to further tightening the screws.

Evan Jones, now retired, lectured in political economy at the University of Sydney for 34 years.

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A government reeking of corruption hits the panic button.

Coronavirus-panic sweeps the nation. There’s barely a bottle of Dettol hand sanitizer left on a metal supermarket shelf across the land. Panic buying of toilet paper, pasta and rice turns ugly. A fight erupts in a Western Sydney Woolworths. Two Bankstown women, aged 23 and 60 are charged with affray.

Whilst no injury seems to have been sustained, the same cannot be said of the Morrison government which ends the week reeking of corruption after misleading the senate over changes to its rorted sports grants after it had entered caretaker mode 11 April 2019, whilst former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie departs from the script by insisting she knows nothing of changes made in her name after caretaker mode commenced.

Sport Australia has refused to answer forty questions, which officials took on notice, effectively denying a senate committee request and failing to meet its Friday deadline. Former Health Department Head, Glenys Beauchamp, did comply but she’s destroyed all of her personal notes following her resignation in January. Genius.

Adding injury to insult, Attorney-General Porter has to be corrected by his own department on his misunderstanding of his own paper tiger DIY federal anti-corruption body he’s been drafting since 2018. Then, from up shit creek, there’s a hullabaloo about all that bushfire crisis money being as scarce as rocking-horse poo. Labor’s Murray Watt makes a convincing case that Scotty’s $2 billion dollar fund doesn’t even exist.

But how good is our chief malignant narcissist for calling a coronavirus pandemic, early despite expert advice? Panic is a great distractor. As with his mentor, Donald John Trump, Scott John Morrison always knows best.  Also freakishly Trump-like is his urge to upstage anyone who knows what they’re doing but by week’s end, his shonky public appearances as leader of our fight against COVID-19 look less and less convincing.

Like Trump, Morrison loses interest quickly – especially when things are not going all his own way. Or are not all about him. Time to hand-ball to serial failure Hunt. By Sunday, the hapless Health Minister, now struggling with his fifth portfolio, urges Australia to draw on the community spirit it showed during the summer bushfire crisis.

Luckily, Hunt stops short of invoking the spirit of the fire-ravaged Bega township of Cobargo, or countless other small towns whose residents are underwhelmed by glad-handed Scotty and are happy to let him know it.

Melding bushfire crisis talking points into cryptic nostrums, like some talking fortune cookie, Hunt gushes puzzling, but tremendously uplifting morale-boosters such as  “This is the moment to be its best self, and for Australia to be the nation and the community we know it can be … We will get through this together.”

An orgy of public self-congratulation, spun as “Coronavirus updates” not only helps to boost the nation’s spirits with the palpable falsehood that all is well, it helps distract from a barrage of inconvenient truths. There’s still a bit of fuss over General Gus; Defence Force, Chief Angus Campbell, who tells Senate Estimates, Wednesday, he’s given Morrison an earful over the abuse of defence material in the PM’s bushfire promo.

Labor leader, Anthony Albanese is rapier-like in calling Morrison out, saying he “used defence force imagery to try to shore up what was flailing political support due to his lack of action during the bushfire crisis”.

“I talk to the chief of the defence force very regularly,” Morrison blusters in reply, slyly dressing up the dressing down. (Surely every healthy Western democracy has a PM who is bosom pals with the defence chief?) But there is even criticism from within his own party over his politicising of the climate bushfires.

Good Morning Britain host, Piers Morgan, who was recently gob-smacked by Craig Kelly’s climate science ignorance and denialism, calls the video, “a self-promotional commercial with cheesy elevator music.”

“This is one of the most tone-deaf things I’ve ever seen a country’s leader put out during a crisis. Shameless & shameful,” he rages on Twitter. A range of similar comments confirm Morrison’s ear of tin. It will undo him.

The Australia Defence Association – a public-interest watchdog – says the government breaks rules around political advertising. “Party-political advertising milking ADF support to civil agencies fighting bushfires is a clear breach of the (reciprocal) non-partisanship convention applying to both the ADF & Ministers/MPs,”

Other home truths include a mismanaged economy; tanking for four years. Yet the government still has no plan beyond declaring it has a plan. Just as it has a coronavirus plan. Worse, the former Minister for sports rorts loads both barrels of her Beretta Silver Pigeon; takes aim at her PM Thursday. This is not in the plan.

The government’s cunning plan is to help “dodgy” Scotty (as the normally very proper ABC 7:30’s Laura Tingle calls Morrison on ABC Insiders, Sunday) evade questions such as Katharine Murphy’s query on sports grants Friday. Sport Australia tells The Saturday Paper that both former Sport minister McKenzie and the Sport Australia board approved its decision to withhold 25 per cent of the $41.7 million allocated to the Sporting Schools program in 2018 – and that it was “authorised by government under the usual budget processes”.

Sport Australia will soon “transition” to an Orwellian Sport Integrity Australia, due to operate from July or whenever the government comes up with the legislation required.

All Australians will be delighted to hear that Sport Integrity will police threats to Australian sport doping, match-fixing and cheating as befits an organ of Sport Australia which currently enables Liberal MPs to abuse funds in pork-barrel rorting to buy elections.

Yet another mystery hangs over our secretive government’s proceedings. Clover-gate is put in the shade. Thursday evening, McKenzie reveals she made no “changes or annotations” to a 4 April brief which suggests it was clearly altered by the PM or some staffer in his office before it went to Sport Australia 11 April.

Morrison fobs off questions at his Friday Presser. “I’m dealing with coronavirus”, Milli Vanilli Morrison lies. In reality, in between dodging shotgun pellets, he tries to take all the credit for the work of Federal Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Brendan Murphy and his team of state medical officers and staff. Yet it won’t wash.

Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy is shocked by Scotty’s refusal to take her questions on Friday. Tactically, it gives Bridget McKenzie’s revelations a type of legitimacy. The PM appears to be running away. He has every reason to. According to legal experts such as Anne Twomey, there is not one occasion in the sports rorts saga where the government appears to have acted legally.

Not only were its actions illegal, Professors Cheryl Saunders and Michael Crommelin of the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at Melbourne University, and Professor Anne Twomey of Sydney University argue in a joint submission published by Senate Committee that the grants are unconstitutional.

The very bad news for Scott John Morrison is that the experts concur that not only did Minister McKenzie have no lawful power to approve the grants, but the offices of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister had no power to direct how decisions were to be made. No wonder Scotty’s running scared.

The PM’s bushfire disinformation campaign blaming a lack of back-burning is also cackling away. On ABC, Aunty recycles the inflammatory remarks of Ted Bull, superbly-named Gippsland Nationals’ MP.

Last January, killjoy CFA chief, Steve Warrington warned hazard or fuel-load reduction it is not a “silver bullet” solution.

“Some of the hysteria that this will be the solution to all our problems is really just quite an emotional load of rubbish, to be honest,” he says, a comment close to heresy in our current post-fact, anti-expert climate.

Too late. Great swathes are cut alongside roads in Gippsland in Victoria. It’s unprecedented, say conservationists, who report loss of habitat; vandalised ecosystems. Logging contractors clear-fell timber in an eighty to a hundred metre buffer along thousands of kilometres of roads in climate bushfire-affected areas, near Cann River, Mallacoota, Cape Conran and Orbost.

Bushfire consultant, Cormac Farrell, says burns are a useful tool, especially when the hazard reduction burns were completed within 800 metres of urban areas or public assets.

“But in terms of protecting towns and cities on those worst-case scenarios on those really bad days when the fire, the wind and heat are really pumping, we are finding it is able to burn over relatively bare ground.”

Luckily, Scott Morrison has already set up its inquiry, a Royal Commission which will follow its mining lobby script and find value in hazard reduction, praise the role of the military, call for its increase and confirm his sermons on “adaptation” the latest excuse for doing nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Our rort-meister government tries to jumps the shark in Senate Estimates this week. In a fit of sheer, gas-lit genius, rural and regional affairs committee chair, Susan McDonald rules, Monday, that the word “rorts” is unparliamentary.

Senate Estimates continues its theatre of cruelty; or abuse of due process, with AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw, prefacing his evidence by bragging that he set a record for questions on notice in his last appearance. He boasts he’ll beat his record this time.

Say what you will. Our federal government and its fans in big mining and banking and agribusiness are endlessly inventive in their contempt for democracy.

Everything is going to plan. But what is the plan? Wacky, undergrad humourist and Yoga-joker, Hungarian Josh Frydenberg, who is such a crack-up lately with his tacky, racist insults towards Australia’s Hindu community, in response to Labor’s Shadow Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers’ well-being budget, suddenly goes all coy.

Morrison helps out heaps with a three word slogan; the response will be “targeted, measured and scalable”.

All the Treasurer will say this week is that his coronavirus stimulus package to rescue a tanking economy “will have a B in front of it“. For business, buffoonery, or bluff? His government’s chronic mismanagement has caused our economy to tank for some time. Not once in six years has GDP been on trend.

Doubtless, details will follow as soon as the BCA, the Minerals Council and the banks put their requests in.  But the Nats may still be unhappy.

The Incredible Bridget McKenzie pushes back at her PM from under the bus he drove over her – only to be upstaged by My Corona, a show from Shonky Morrison and his honky tonk combo starring Chief Medical officer, Brendan Murphy, who gets to bare his teeth in a shit-eating grin while Morrison takes credit for Murphy’s work.

Backing vocals are by doo-wah dweeb, Greg Hunt, Minister for flatulent garrulity and advocate for the private health insurance virus; today a six billion dollar impost, crippling our public health system, a subsidy introduced by lying rodent John Howard, in 1996.

Greg tells us, endlessly, how well our sick health system is and what miracles of planning are being wrought, tautologically; “we have a national stockpile that is very well stocked.”

In reality, our masks used to be imported from Wuhan and even dentists have less than two weeks’ supply but government is “close to securing a deal” with local manufacturers claim the Australian Dental Association.

Funding? Funding never ceases to be a good news story. A recklessly generous, federal government will be “shoulder to shoulder with the states”, as former rugby forward, Morrison, puts it. This means forking out an extra five per cent, Hunt explains, patting himself and PM on the back over cutting such a great deal.

“It’s a very, very good outcome for the states. I think they recognise that … Normally, if somebody presented at a hospital without something such as this, we would pay 45 percent of the costs, and they would pay 55 percent of the costs.” Put this way, the federal government seems a model of profligate generosity.

Just imagine. By Friday, GPs, officials, “primary health workers” and those who tend the elderly hold meetings. Medication is stockpiled, they fret. Masks and other protective gear are scarce. Workers already struggle to do their jobs after Morrison ripped $1.2 billion from the aged-care industry budget, a cut which came on top of an earlier $500 million reduction in subsidies to create an industry now on the verge of collapse.

Above all, those who make our medical system work lament the lack of information and real leadership from government. AMA head Tony Bartone, exposes the reality behind the federal government’s interminable spin,

“Communication, timeliness and consistency of messaging about the virus to doctors and the public was brought up by doctors loud and clear. As was personal protective equipment.” Fatuous reassurances follow.

“There was a deep, deep understanding and acknowledgement by the commonwealth that more needs to be done in both of those spaces,” Dr Bartone adds, channelling the “in this space” vacuity, so popular in modern officialese, a virulent disease of communication itself; the enemy of plain speaking. Or accountability.

“It does not look like we are looking at containment, we are going to be managing an outbreak across our community, and we need to be properly funded and need true leadership from government about what everybody’s roles are,” warns Dr Charlotte Hespe,  of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Talk about talk it up. Playing to packed houses across the nation, Morrison’s Corona Update Show features a troupe of Chief Medical Officers, state and federal, plucked, reluctantly, from the mounting impossibility of completing his or her day to day duties to publicly suffer the PM’s prolixity; his cheapjack grandstanding.

Worse, we “cross” to apostle of bombast, sidekick Dweeb Hunt who adds his own brand of long-winded spin.

“Our first task as a Government is to keep Australians safe. And as part of that, working together with the states and territories, with the community, with the health sector, to ensure that there’s a seamless approach.”

Clearly, the first task of his government is to divert our attention from the rising stench of scandal and corruption which, as Bernard Keane notes, threatens to eclipse the smell of fear as Morrison almost loses control of numbers in the House over Labor’s censure of his government because it “deliberately misled the parliament and the Australian people about the corrupt sports rorts scheme”.

Yet the message changes. “Get yourself tested” Hunt tells Australians with flu-like symptoms late Sunday. It’s a sudden departure from the confidence in containment script so carefully followed only a week ago. No-one tries to explain how an overburdened General Practice will cope with the sudden demand.

“Even though it can be a little bit of a stress on the system,” Hunt says. “If in doubt, get yourself tested.” If only you could get an appointment at your local medical centre.

The week has been testing for the Morrison government, a government which since its inception has found the challenges of policy-making impossible, let alone those of day to day administration. Whipping up pandemic panic is counterproductive, especially now since consumers see empty shelves; hear empty rhetoric while learning of the spread of the virus. Between reality and the rhetoric of government reassurances falls a shadow.

Exploiting fear while spinning the illusion of leadership and control marks the Coronavirus Update Show as another Morrison failure; another confirmation of the PM’s dud political judgement and the dysfunction of a cabinet of yea-sayers and bootlickers.

Worse, as COVID-19 takes hold in communities the length and breadth of Australia, it is clear that the PM’s initial claims of containment were mere Trump-like bravado.

Finally, fatuous Josh Frydenberg must come up with a miraculous package; a stimulus to businesses which are already foundering based on a trickle-down theory that is economic nonsense. Chris Bowen tries to be supportive on ABC Insiders.

“The economy has been weakening,” he says. “Now the government does need to respond. One of the things that they could do is adopt the policy we took with the election with the Australian investment guarantee – a … 20% upfront for all businesses and investments big or small.

The government has one sitting week before it is due to hand down its May Budget. It is unlikely to provide any relief to workers or the 4.6 million Australians who receive an income support payment of some kind from the Australian Government in the form of a pension or allowance. Or to increase the minimum wage or restore penalty rates.

Yet reputable economists argue that boosting household incomes is most likely to boost consumption and stimulate a stagnant economy.  Given its Coronavirus Update Show chicanery, however, expect the Coalition Coronavirus Budget Show to be all about rescuing its business mates while grandstanding fit to beat the band.

On its current performance, it will not begin to be able to factor in the economic dislocation of the virus such as the disruption of education, tourism, trade and supply chains, nor will its limited repertoire of neoliberal nostrums be up to the task.

But you can be sure the virus will be made to take the blame for four years of its own, woeful, economic mismanagement. And the welfare of business mates and wealth creators will matter far more than that of households or pensioners or wage and salary earners. And we’ll never stop hearing about how wonderful it is.

And it’ll be no good asking about sports rorts corruption and illegality or anything unconstitutional because the PM’s presser will always be about something else.

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It Can’t Get Any Worse. Can it?

By Grumpy Geezer  

Are we there yet? Have we reached rock bottom?

The L/NP coagulation’s purpose is, and always has been, to function as the primary mechanism for their corporate chums to shovel public money into their private hands – supplemented with a shoot-it-or-chop-it-down nod and wink to the squatocracy and the Kickatinalong kulaks to lock in the bumpkin vote.

* * * * *

There was a time when, as conservatives, the Tories believed in compliance with conventions and standards; when their born-to-rule beliefs at least included some sense of noblesse oblige, when rabid right-wing fuckwittery was hidden in the attic of their port and cigars old boy’s fraternities. That time was way back when a New Guard proto-fascist Francis De Groot got arrested and charged for being an arsehole whereas his present day facsimile, Herr Kipfler Spud-Dutton, gets handed the reins to the nation’s spooks, goon squads and thought police and who, in a fully functional democracy would be as welcome as a loose stool in a preschool ball pit. This is progress?

The 1975 overthrow of Gough Whitlam kicked the legs out from under Australia’s progressivism and showed the lengths that Tories are willing to go to when they lose control of the Treasury benches. But in the aftermath of the dark days of Kerr’s coup Malcolm Fraser as PM at least showed glimpses of humanity with his sympathy for refugees and his antipathy to apartheid.

The fetid stench that settled over the Lying Nasty Party was from the beetle-browed goblin John Howard’s shrivelled arse hitting the big, green Parliamentary swivel chair. His operating style was meanness and trickery, divide-and-conquor was his modus operandi and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) was his tool of trade. He was the architect of Workchoices Macht Frei – the manifesto of his mendacity and duplicity in one nasty, divisive Newspeak package. It could not get any worse. Except it did.

Enter the living proof of the invalidity of the Peter Principle:

The Peter Principle is an observation that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a corporation, is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach a level of respective incompetence.

If all of the village idiots in all of the world gathered together in the one village they would elect Tony Abbott as their icon of idiocy. He’s an ideas-free zone who through happenstance rose far beyond his level of incompetence. He would be mentally challenged in the role of porn theatre bucket boy, he could capture all of his thoughts on an Etch-A-Sketch and his rudimentary planning capacity had him thinking that tactics are a minty breath freshener. He’s a void that could suck the vacuum from empty space.

With the face of a carp wrapped in cling film, his tongue flicking like a lizard trying to lick its own eyeballs he’d invade the personal space of visiting dignitaries while the colour drained from their faces. He’d cackle like marbles being dropped down a drain – somewhat undermining his self-image of a macho man. Covering his manhood in too-small red sluggos made him look like a moulting yowie, his bow-legged, shoulder-rolling affectation not so much butch as “chimpanzee-with-ball-rash”. What a fucking disaster he was.

The L/NP effluvium was briefly masked with Eau de Swarovski-scented inertia in a leather jacket when the mendacious wrecker Abbott was consigned to the ignominy of the backbench by Malcolm Bligh Turnbull who impressed no-one more so than he impressed himself. He was a man of inaction but at least we were saved from the RWFWs; there was no-one who could be worse than Abbott.

Turnbull The Useless’s legacy is three-fold. We have a national telecommunications infrastructure that would embarrass Lower Moustachistan. We have a neo-fascist tuber as Minister for Home Affairs and we inherited a carnival side-show spruiker and Armageddonist as PM, showing that the impossible is possible – Morrison is even worse than Abbott.

Howard to Abbott to Morrison, lower and lower and lower. The mendacity has multiplied, incompetence is rewarded, avoidance of scrutiny is embedded in their governance; Parliament is like a performance of Puppetry Of The Penis – we’re watching cocks tie themselves in knots. Public service has been crushed by cronyism and profiteering privateers, authoritarianism is rampant and dodgy practice has devolved into brazen criminality. It’s as bad as it gets.

We have an end-of-times Prime Minister, an Armageddonist who wont buy long life milk let alone plan for the nation’s future. He no doubt secretly welcomes the coronavirus as both a distraction from the blatant theft of hundreds of millions of our dollars to support his re-election, and as a marketing opportunity to salvage his image from the train-wreck that was his behaviour during the bushfire crisis. It’s also a handy excuse for not delivering on his boasted budget surplus.

As a Pentacostalist nutter Morrison will believe that the virus, the fires and the drought are his god’s will and that he and his righteous brethren will safely ascend to the heavens in a golden, chauffeured, stretched Beemer. His god apparently has no misgivings about larceny on a grand scale, brazen lying or the persecution of the unfortunate – as long as there’s no lawn mowing on Sundays.

In the words of another ad man – but wait, there’s more.

Despite Australia’s governance being in the hands of a graduate of the Jimmy Swaggart School of Ethics and the deputy PM being a bobbleheaded dullard of such monumental dreariness that his pronouncements have been copyrighted as a sleep apnea therapy it can get even worse.

Like crows circling roadkill there’s the usual chancers impatiently awaiting their opportunity. There’s Christian Porter, an Attorney General who’d re-gift a Scrabble set to a school for dyslexics just so he could enjoy the bickering. There’s Smarmy Josh Fraudburger, a pitiable PJK-wannabe who’d take bets on which blind beggar in a wheelchair would make it across the Bradfield Expressway at peak hour.

And then there’s that other ever-present miasma, Barking Barmy – aka Englebert Humpastaffer. As coherent as a cement mixer with tourettes who shouts at clouds while dressed as a hay bale, who has more kids than teeth and who is a Riverview educated ex-Deputy PM raging against “elites” while trousering $600k for sending some text messages. This delusional cretin’s lack of self-awareness tests the parameters of the Dunning-Kruger effect as he continues to harbour dark thoughts about shivving his bobbleheaded boss.

A Dutton/Joyce government?

With Dutton and Joyce the Tories can indeed sink even lower than the fetid depths that they have already plumbed.

Let’s not forget some of Spud’s and Joyce’s appalling cheer squads who would be rewarded with further perks, rorts and influence.

Matt King Coal Canavan’s perpetually pained expression could be constipation – an ongoing struggle to release an immovable chocolate hostage on camera, however it’s more likely a symptom of his frustration at his inability to monetise sunshine and wind for familial benefit as he has with coal.

The rotund Georgie Porgy Christenson has reportedly been trying to get into shape. Spherical apparently. His running machine has a remote control, he attends a drive-through gym, he puts mayonaisse on his diet pills, he supports his local sugar industry via Krispy Kreme but Georgy has threatened to work up the effort to cross the floor. He’s just waiting for Harvey Weinstein’s zimmer frame to appear on eBay.

Abbott loyalist Otto Abetz is so inflexible and leans so far to the right he could double as a sun-dial’s gnomon. The possibility of a  suitable position in Spud’s Gestapotato (brown jacket included) could rekindle mein onkle-like ambition in Otto’s withered loins. Kriminaldirektor Deportations perhaps.

With a voice like fingernails down a chalkboard, dunking stool passenger Michaelia Carcrash’s palatability is limited and her loyalty is as suspect as a scoutmaster’s lollybag – just ask Malcolm Turnbull. Well practiced in the duplicitous arts as she is she’s comfortable in her current role as Minister For Employee Exploitation but likely could be tempted by a more rortable portfolio. Carcrash’s contribution to the sisterhood is in proving that a woman can be just as contemptible as any man. Her red high heels are not feminist symbols, they are simply to stop her nasty from dragging along the pavement.

Cheap shots aside, what’s my point?

The L/NP has provided easy targets for loathing and derision since Howard’s time. Their only innovation is in exploring new ways to exploit most of us for the benefit of the few. They are feudalists, Randesque survival-of-the-richest oligarchs, environmental rapists, autocrats and religious fringe dwellers. They are manifestly incompetent, they are liars and grifters.

But as abominable as they are the Tories have proven time and again they can go lower still. They are now indulging in brazen criminality. They should be in prison, not in government. Get angry, stay angry. If we let them they will continue to sink lower and lower.

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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Morrison’s government, a poster-child for irresponsibility on climate

“Australia is the poster-child for irresponsibility on climate change” laments Christiana Figueres, former head of The UN Framework Convention On Climate Change. A key architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement, Dr Figueres is currently in Australia on a speaking tour. She deplores our PM’s latest “technology target” stunt.

Figueres dismisses Scotty from marketing, our coal lobbyists’ puppet PM and his weasel-worded “technology not taxes” evasion of responsibility; a dereliction of his duty to at least reduce emissions to net zero by 2050. But she may as well be talking about our bizarre determination to pursue the fiction of Kyoto carry-over credits.

Or the Coalition’s recent crazy decision to finance a four million dollar feasibility study into a coal-fired power station at Collinsville in North Queensland, a project that is destined to become a white elephant. Demand is flat and there is no shortage of electricity in supply in the area.

Tropical North QLD also has an abundance of renewables, wind, solar and hydro.

Morrison is concocting a fake substitute. Details remain top secret even to his own cabinet but he’s calling it a technology goal, so as not to upset the coal warriors who run his coalition. All will be revealed at the 2020 UN Climate Change Conference, to be held 9-19 November, in Glasgow.

Working on it now, doubtless, is Gus Taylor, the government’s undisputed computational champion following his sensational calculation that Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore’s annual travel amounted to an astonishing $15 million a year, a figure which was leaked to News Corp’s Daily Telegraph, in an apparently doctored report, by Taylor’s office, an action calculated to damage Moore’s reputation.

Happily, NSW Police were able to hand-ball the investigation of the forgery to the AFP which hadn’t “bothered” to look for the information required. As Clover Moore, herself observes,

“The people might pay the [AFP] salary but they work for the government who appoints them.”

Similarly, Figueres is not fooled by Morrison’s proposal of an alternative, Clayton’s commitment of his own. “I frankly think every industrialised country has to take on an economy-wide target,” she declares.

According to The Australian, (the Liberal Party’s Pravda), Morrison’s conflicted Coalition will oppose any proposal to adopt a long-term emissions goal, such as Labor’s net zero emissions target by 2050, which the Opposition announced this week. Already, crackpot Craig Kelly is calling it “an economic suicide note” on Sky.

It it’s suicide, then also committing economic self-slaughter are Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Cape Verde, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Ethiopia, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, Nauru Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu. Add in all Australian state governments including Liberal.

But don’t expect Morrison’s mob to be shamed into accepting their fair share of decarbonisation. Amy Remeikis notes in Monday’s The Guardian Australia the paucity of the Coalition’s latest threadbare case as it airs the Kiwis’ cow, sheep-fart and Fergie tractor exhaust exemption.

The government’s killer argument against Labor’s zero emissions by 2050 policy, is that the Kiwis have quarantined New Zealand’s agriculture industry from Aotearoa’s target.

“So suddenly, after years and years of rhetoric over how we don’t need to look to other countries for our policies, including NZ, in the wake of its offers to take additional refugees from Nauru, New Zealand is the gold standard of policy.”

But no-one expects, logic, consistency or sanity from Morrison. Most of the time now we are surprised, if not somewhat dismayed, that he remembers to show up for work.

Trying hard to be wily, Scotty recycles tactics Howard used to dodge emissions targets in the Kyoto Protocol negotiated in the 1990s. “Investment targets or goals” for technologies will help the Coalition continue to abdicate all responsibility for being the planet’s highest per-capita greenhouse gas polluter, amongst advanced countries.

The dirty trick of focussing on investment is a legacy of climate contrarians such as Bjorn Lomborg, the world’s most active luke-warmer. Lomborg doesn’t deny the physics of the greenhouse effect, but instead cherry-picks information to deny that the risks of climate change are large enough to justify strong and urgent action.

Morrison’s technology hoax contains the specious case that governments should develop new technologies to drive down costs, before actually deploying the new technology. It is simply another criminally irresponsible, flawed, stalling tactic. Labor’s climate change spokesperson, Mark Butler calls out Scotty’s latest, futile, subterfuge.

Morrison’s ” … latest thought bubble of a “technology target” is just a throwback to the Howard era when he and George W Bush rejected emissions reduction targets in the Kyoto Protocol in favour of a so-called “technology approach” which boosted nuclear power and so-called ‘clean coal,’” Butler says.

Serial ministerial failure, Greg Hunt, Abbott’s environment minister patsy, who gave the nation “soil magic” or direct action is a huge Lomborg fan. Greg tried to stump up $4 million in taxpayer funds to pay for Lomborg’s appointment to an Australian university. Hunt’s opposition to the carbon tax cited Lomborg’s nonsense.

Scotty’s mob denies that we live in a climate emergency. Refuses to even say “climate change“, let alone admit that it is a result of anthropogenic global heating or link this to our recent catastrophic megafires. And worse. Kelly’s all for distributing climate change lies in schools so that children can make up their mind based on falsehoods.

Kelly’s a fan of Advance Australia – which bills itself as a right-wing version of progressive lobby group GetUp. Advance Australia plans to develop materials on climate change targeted at children. Their fossil-fuel propaganda would include a “Smart Scientist’s Kit”, a misinformative e-book of “10 climate facts to expose the climate change hoax”, as well as an “educational video and speaking tour” by a “renowned climate scientist”. Nine Newspapers reports.

Liz Storer, the former, silver-tongued, Liberal adviser behind the development of the kiddies’ kit of lies is a model of halcyon objectivity and tolerance as is evident in her views on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. (CEFC)

We (recently) saw our PM give $1 billion more, taxpayer dollars, to the CEFC. For what? These guys started back in 2012 as a Labor-created, snot wad of a useless body,” she sneers. Useless snot-wad? Perhaps she should talk to CEO Ian Learmonth who notes in CEFC’s latest Annual Report,

We are proud to report that, since inception, CEFC investments have helped drive more than $24 billion in additional private sector (clean energy) investment commitments Australia-wide.  Yet her PM is no better.

Scotty resurrects all his favourite flawed arguments as he Gish-Gallops away reducing greenhouse emissions.

“Currently no one can tell me that going down that path won’t cost jobs, won’t put up your electricity prices, and won’t impact negatively on jobs in the economies of rural and regional Australia. And my Government is absolutely committed to the jobs of rural and regional Australians,” he spins his hurdy-gurdy of vacuous, dishonest garrulity.

Scotty is totally surprised to get a bit of a hand from bush-lawyer Barnaby Joyce who can’t resist his own garbled Gish-Gallop, either, as he vents in a parliament’s hallway, shouting over the top of Joel Fitzgibbons’ Monday morning conference. Joyce is right on cue. It’s almost as if his outburst is scripted by the PM’s office.

“What a load of rubbish. What a load of pig manure. He’s going to reach out to you. He’s going to reach out to the coal mines. Don’t worry, fellas, we’re reaching out to you. We’re reaching out and saying you’re going to lose your job. Reaching out, that’s how you’re going to do it. You’re going to make the equation work by putting trees back on people’s properties whether they like it or not. We’re going to let the shrubs grow back on the country.”

You can’t beat parliament’s hallways for a bit of sober, civilised, rational discourse. Putting trees back? Oh, the horror of wanton reforestation.

No-one asks Morrison of the negative impact of doing nothing – especially when that means continuing the $42 billion a year subsidy which fossil fuel industries enjoy in the absence of carbon pricing. That would be cabinet in confidence and/or commercial in confidence and above all a matter of national security.

No-one can tell Scotty anything – unless, it’s former coal lobbyist John Kunkel or one of other nine former mining industry suits whom he’s recruited on staff. Or the claque of former News Corp hacks, who join them.

Australia would prosper – if only it had a government responsible enough to take real action on climate change, according to a range of experts.  These include CSIRO calculations that we would spend 58-64%  less on electricity under a shift to 100 per cent renewables.

Above all, it exposes the Coalition’s reversion to the hype of $100 lamb roasts, as cynical, disinformation. In fact, renewables bring huge economic benefits.

The CSIRO’s Australian National Outlook report finds bold action on the uptake of renewables could lead to GDP growth of 2.76% to 2.8% annually, a 90% increase in real wages and net zero emissions by 2050.

Monday, Pravda is full of Morrison’s drop that Cabinet ministers, the National Farmers’ Federation and freight lobbyists are all calling for Anthony Albanese to cost his economy-wide target of net-zero emissions by 2050, despite all states in nation having already made their own independent commitment. It’s the same wedge tactics we heard from Tony Carbon-tax Abbott with his $100 lamb roast and Whyalla off the map hype.

Oddly, The Oz fails to include the relative cost of inaction — which the Climate Council estimates at over $2 trillion by 2050 for Australia’s agriculture, property and productivity sectors.

But ScoMo knows that when you’re a government in an abusive relationship with the electorate, you gaslight the nation, you insist repeatedly that renewables are so costly they will wreck the economy.  Or you make cryptic references to developing technologies – only to be blown out of the rapidly heating water in one of the best good news stories of the week.

“The technologies are here,” software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes says as he announces a $12 million plan to fund solar and battery off-grid system to provide clean and reliable power to communities hit by bushfires and other disasters.

In delivering the first two of what could be one hundred off-grid solar and storage systems – using rapid solar deployed by Australia’s 5B, and Tesla batteries , Cannon Brookes is struck by how surprised people are that such technology is available now. They tell him they thought such technologies were a decade away.

Such misconception is rife in the general community as it is amongst our ruling class. Yet disinformation about energy and denigration of renewables is the mainstay of much of mainstream media – the Murdoch papers, Sky News and toxic talk-back radio’s investment in recycling ignorance, prejudice and superstition. Even our ABC is not immune. Who can forget or forgive Chris Uhlmann’s mis-reporting that the SA grid had collapsed not because of freak weather but because of over-reliance on renewables.

This Sunday, David Speers on ABC Insiders, whose objectivity is imperilled by its increasingly framing discussion by reiterating federal government policy, twits Albo eight times about a carbon price in the desperate search for a gotcha headline that is neither in the nation’s interest nor in the interest of informative, objective journalism.

At the arse-end of last week’s government by announceables and cheering ourselves on until we are hoarse over such big wins as an Aussie Coronavirus cure; a billion dollar spend for Tindal air base, near Katharine, to upgrade it to re-fuel US long-range bombers, a bit of maintenance on the US Alliance we must pay for ourselves, dynamic duo, Dan Tehan and Greg Hunt shuffle on stage right, Saturday to pin the tail on the donkey of the body politic, a Liberal party game of upbeat stuff and nonsense where self-congratulatory bullshit masquerades as fact.

This week’s show’s subtext is abuzz with feel-good fantasies. Good old Aussie know-how and “working around the clock” will produce an anti-Covid-19 Coronavirus vaccine any day soon, whereas, other scientists in other countries are also researching and any vaccine is years away from licence and use in the community.

Professor Warwick McKibbin, director of the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, argues that government money would be best spent on advertising public hygiene, given that simple hand-washing is the single, best preventative against the virus.

The Covid-19 Coronavirus has been contained in Australia, claims Hunt, a fair stretch, given that the Morrison government is again putting the interests of trade and investment ahead of any woke city latte-sippers’ concern for public health.

Worse. The much-vaunted China travel ban was relaxed last week when a series of its cargo ships were allowed to dock regardless of the compulsory 14 day exclusion period. Shocking as this may be it’s hardly a surprise.

If the travel rorts have taught us anything, it is that Morrison’s government is flexible in applying regulations. Yet Health Minister Hunt’s quite happy to take a punt on helping turn Covid-19 into a global pandemic, if there’s a quid in it. It’s our government keeping us safe.  Tarric Brooker in Independent Australia, notes,

By choosing to partially lift the China travel ban, the Morrison Government has chosen to bet the wellbeing of the Australian public on coronavirus statistics coming from the Chinese Government. The same government that lied about the impact of SARS and, even as late as January, was persecuting whistle-blowers who were trying to warn the world about coronavirus.

Yet Morrison’s government – can now add a brand new slogan. We’re the only party that didn’t stop the boats. New Zealand, on the other hand, has extended its ban on arrivals from mainland China into a fourth week, Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern announces Monday 24 February. The ban would be reviewed after that, she says.

Of course, it’s difficult to get a fix on the facts amidst background noise from other competing narratives; the cheering on of UQ researchers who are “just days away” from testing a COVID-19 vaccine on animals while dapper Dan’s on hand to spruik up getting “normality” back into the international student market.

Nothing is remotely normal about the international student market which Liberal con-artists such as Immigration Minister David Coleman claim is worth a whopping $35 billion in export revenue. Luckily, Dave was addressing Gerald Henderson’s Sydney Institute last August and no-one was paying much attention.

Coleman is wrong. It’s not export revenue, as Leith Van Onselen points out. International students studying in Australia are legally allowed to work 20 hours per week. Many also work illegally. Because the income earned is used to pay for either tuition fees or living expenses, it is not a true export but merely economic activity.

International students working and supporting themselves are no more an export than domestic students living away from home. It pays to take boasts about total numbers of international education exports with a grain of salt, however much Dan Tehan loves to blow his own trumpet. We just don’t know the facts.

Tehan dynasty scion, Dan, an Education Minister, who knows the price of everything we can charge a fee for and the value of nothing that accrues from study let alone learning, struggles a bit to get his message out.

The guts of it is that he’s going to take China’s reassurances at face value because we’ve got to get those Year 11 and Year 12 fee-paying students back into the country or all hope of any sacred surplus materialising is buggered.

In fact, given “political tensions” and diplomatic ineptitude, the result of our government’s US sycophancy, numbers of students from China are declining while those from India and Nepal are on the rise.

Leith Van Onselen worries given the ABC’s Four Corners expose of plagiarism, academic misconduct, and students from India failing their courses, that standards may be lowered in order that the government can pump up numbers.

Or, in other words, that we continue to prostitute our tertiary institutions to boost our “export” earnings, however, dodgy or “Gussied” up they may prove. Yet there’s no way to “Gussie up” or put lipstick on the pig of Morrison government’s energy debacle.

Our corrupt, coal-fired climate science denying Coalition is crippling investment in renewable energy, according to COAG’s Energy Security Board (ESB) which released its annual Health of the National Electricity Market report on Friday. It confirms recent reports that investment in renewable energy in Australia has slumped 40% in 2019.

Yet as Giles Parkinson writes in Renew Economy The only thing that is getting in the way of a zero emissions target is a government refusing to acknowledge it is possible. And that’s because it doesn’t set a plan that federal regulators and rule-makes can follow, and which can provide a signal to business and investors.

The ESB pulls no punches. It’s time we called sabotage for what it is. The Morrison government is sabotaging the uptake of renewables in order to build a case for the fossil fuel industries which are among its principal backers and donors.

In its report, the Energy Security Board observes

The lack of a strategic direction has led to stakeholders deferring investment in the maintenance and construction of new generation, especially in flexible dispatchable generation. This has increased reliability risks, undermined affordability and slowed progress on emissions reduction. It has also raised barriers to entry and constrained competition in the market. With political uncertainty investment planning becomes very difficult and this has impacts well beyond the electricity industry.

The undermining of affordability of renewables is exactly what those who drive the coal-powered Morrison puppet government desire. It is part of their game plan. With every delay and cynical evasion, the Morrison government reveals itself to be hopelessly, irretrievably corrupted; captives of a fossil fuel industry which is interested only in the profit that comes from expansion even if this means destroying the planet.

At a time when all around it, is the evidence of irreversible global heating, drought, catastrophic megafire, rather than take action to pledge to limit greenhouse gas emissions the Morrison government prefers to play politics; weaponise climate change; rather than act in the best interests of the people it is elected to represent.

Labor’s pledge of net zero emissions by 2050 is neither controversial nor radical. Experts argue we should do much more. This week, it is abundantly clear, however, that the Morrison government, hopelessly in thrall to the coal and gas barons would rather wedge Labor than pursue an emissions policy which could help save the planet.

Its hoax of a technology target or goal is a ploy to get away with doing nothing when every indication from every expert is that we should do all we can and more.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor reduces our responsibility as global citizens to a despicable semantic quibble today. Australia has committed to a net zero emissions target by 2050 under the 2015 Paris Agreement?

“That’s incorrect,” said Taylor. “We signed up to the Paris Agreement, which involves the world achieving net zero in the second half of the next century.” We are not part of that world? Only a fool could be happy living in such a fool’s paradise.

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Comedy without art (part 4)

By Dr George Venturini  

At its heart, Australia is a system of representative government. More specifically, Australian parliamentary democracy is a variation of the Westminster system, the system which is characterised by responsible government.

The question is: responsible to whom? Both Her Majesty’s Australian Government and Her Majesty Loyal Opposition in Australia are responsible to the Queen – not to the people of Australia.

Now, the legislation enacted by the Parliament, the relative regulations, and also the international agreements and/or conventions freely acceded to and ratified by Australia must be regarded as the body of laws which is called, briefly, ‘the rule of law’. There is quite frequent reference to that in the statement. See, for instance, pp. 4 and 9 thereof.

It seems that there should be a kind of reciprocity between the government and the people: the government respects the law that Parliament has enacted or received as much and as long as the subjects do the same. It could be a condition for the protection of the people by and from the government.

The government commands and enforces respect for the ‘rule of law’ and at the same time protects the people within ‘strong borders’ and guarantees ‘strong national security.’ It is the statement proclaiming that much on p. 11, where the statement adds: “This helps to ensure that Australia remains an open, inclusive, free and safe society.” [Emphasis added]

The Australian Government of the time largely contributed to the wording of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948), where Article 14 (1) reads: ‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.’ (Thank you Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt). Nowadays that means absolutely nothing in Canberra.

Successive Australian governments have acceded to, ratified and made the law of the land what is largely referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights, which is the name given to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III) and two international treaties established by the Organisation. The Bill consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) with its two Optional Protocols and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966). The two covenants entered into force in 1976, after a sufficient number of countries had ratified them. Australia was one such country.

Australian governments have entered into other treaties and conventions. To the extent that those instruments relate to the condition of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, every single one of those treaties has been violated by the Australian governments of the last twenty five years, including the present.

As Christos Tsiolkas wrote on 25 March 2017 in an extract from his foreword to They cannot take the sky – Stories of detention (Sydney 2017), apropos the “destructive national debate about asylum seekers”, “In all the screaming across the parliament floor or on social media, we forget that the asylum seeker and the refugee is a real person, with a real body and a real consciousness, that they are as human as we are.”

And he went on:

“For nearly two decades now, Australian politics has been corrupted by a toxic and destructive national debate about asylum seekers and refugees. Unfortunately, fought out as much across media – traditional and digital – as it has in our parliament, the issue of asylum has become inexorably entwined with our security and existential fears arising from the threats of international terrorism.

Our leaders, across the political spectrum, have failed in the democratic imperative to ensure a cogent and humane approach to the issue. In fanning the hysteria of partisanship they have betrayed our trust. That great leveller, history, will ultimately judge us on what kind of country we created for ourselves at the beginning of the 21st century. This isn’t the place for political analysis.”

“We know that the detention centres we have built on our continent, on Nauru and on Manus Island, are not places we would ever countenance imprisoning Australians. We know what we have done. We don’t need history to instruct us on that.”

As Primo Levi had been reduce to number 174517 at Auschwitz, so we have turned all ‘undesirables’ into numbers at Nauru and Manus Island.

Such is the respect for ‘the rule of law’ by Australian governments since 1992.

One concluding observation: the 20 March Turnbull Statement on Multiculturalism boasts of Australia as “the most successful in the world.” Well, it depends on whom you are reading and to whom you are talking.

If one is talking about multiculturalism as expressing cultural diversity and/or ethnic diversity, then one could hear different voices.

A recent work by the respectable Pew Research Center presented the study of cultural diversity and economic development by researcher Erkan Gören of the University of Oldenberg in Germany.

In his paper, Gören measured the amount of cultural diversity in each of more than 180 countries. To arrive at his estimates, he combined data on ethnicity and race with a measure based on the similarity of languages spoken by major ethnic or racial groups. “The hypothesis is that groups speaking the same or highly related languages should also have similar cultural values,” affirmed Gören. He used his language and ethnicity measures to compute a cultural diversity score for each country which ranged from 0 to 1, with larger scores indicating more diversity and smaller values representing less.

Not unusually, the list of culturally diverse countries is headed by Chad, with Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo following. (In Chad in north-central Africa 8.6 million residents belong to more than 100 ethnic groups). These and other African countries typically rank high on any diversity index because of their multitude of tribal groups and languages. According to Gören, the only ‘western’ country to break into the top 20 most diverse is, again, Canada.

Such data should be observed with considerable caution: cultural diversity is a different concept from ethnic diversity. As a result, a map of the world reflecting ethnic diversity looks somewhat different from the one based on Gören’s cultural diversity measure which combines language and ethnicity profiles of a country.

The Harvard Institute of Economic Research developed a map similar to the one offered by Gören’s findings.

Still, a comparison of the Harvard and Goren maps shows that the most diverse countries in the world are found in Africa. Such conclusion could have been a source of worry for Mr. Turnbull, permanently concerned as he was about his difficult relations with the troglodytes at his right and with most of the ‘Nationals’.

The cave-men, and probably some of their women, would feel more comfortable with the dreams of Menzies and his “British to the bootstraps”, or the menaces of Howard and his “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” than with looking, if they ever look at such things, for a real multicultural experience and finding it in … Chad. The comparison with Toronto comes back here: in Toronto there live 53 per cent ‘Whites’, 7 per cent Blacks, and 40 per cent ‘Others’. Every member of the Melbournian bene society would be entitled to worry. What? Some 250,000 Blacks going about in Melbourne? There is enough to hear about ‘being swamped’ by them!

And how would Mr. Turnbull have reacted if faced with a motion similar to the one passed by 201 votes to 91 on 24 March 2017 by the Canadian Parliament? On that day, the Parliament adopted a landmark anti-Islamophobia and religious discrimination motion which calls on politicians to condemn anti-Islamic behaviour and rhetoric. It called on the Canadian Government to recognise the need to “quell the public climate of fear and hate.”

It is worth reproducing that motion verbatim:

“Whereas: “Islam is a religion of over 1.5 billion people worldwide. Since its founding more than 1400 years ago, Muslims have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the positive development of human civilization. This encompasses all areas of human endeavors including the arts, culture, science, medicine, literature, and much more;

Recently an infinitesimally small number of extremist individuals have conducted terrorist activities while claiming to speak for the religion of Islam. Their actions have been used as a pretext for a notable rise of anti-Muslim sentiments in Canada; and

These violent individuals do not reflect in any way the values or the teachings of the religion of Islam. In fact, they misrepresent the religion. We categorically reject all their activities. They in no way represent the religion, the beliefs and the desire of Muslims to co-exist in peace with all peoples of the world.

We, the undersigned, Citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to join us in recognizing that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam, and in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.”

How can one even imagine such a thing happening in Canberra?

Try.

Beyond the words which decorate the composition of a multiethnic society such as Australia, and coming to the real substance of life – and in Australia that is money – it remains a reality that in multicultural Australia as described, the levers of command in the corporate boardrooms are still overwhelmingly in the so-called ‘Anglo-Saxon’ hands.

“Anyone that sounds different, behaves different, or has somewhat different views  –  which is the point of diversity and the strength of diversity – it can be a little hard to get into the club.” the chairwoman of the Asian Australian Foundation, Cheri Ong, told the A.B.C.

A look at the statistics bears out Ms. Ong’s point.

In the past few decades Australia has become a very different country.

Only 58 per cent of Australians still have British roots; 18 per cent are European; 21 per cent non-European; and 3 per cent of Australians are Indigenous.

By contrast, in the big end of town, three quarters of C.E.O.s are from British heritage and 18 per cent from Europe, meaning a total of 93 per cent are white.

And in the boardroom, 70 per cent of directors come from a British background.

A detailed breakdown of the other 30 per cent is not available, but they include directors from other white, first-world, countries.”’

And there is more.

“But as tough as it is for people like Ms. Long [chairwoman of A.M.P. Capital Funds Management] and Ms. Ong to become directors, there’s one group that’s completely shut out, and that’s Indigenous Australians.

I think it probably stems from the generations of exclusion of Indigenous Australians from mainstream Australi,” said Ms. Laura Berry, who is the C.E.O. of Supply Nation, a company which links Indigenous businesses with the big end of town.

As an Indigenous person making her way in the business world, Ms. Berry has no doubt there are many Aboriginal people more than capable of being company directors.

Ms. Ong had one more interesting comment: “With company boards so un-reflective of Australian society, inevitably the issue of targets, or even quotas, gets raised in discussions about how to fix the problem.

Targets and quotas actually force boards to actually explore the option, and I think that’s where as a mechanism, in a tool-kit for change, that progresses the cause, if you like,” Ms. Ong said.

Targets and quotas have been shown to work in boosting the percentage of women on company boards, but as in the gender-diversity debate, there is one issue that’s also very important on dealing with cultural diversity.

“And that is it’s not what you know but who[m] you know that can determine your board prospects.

“If you didn’t go to that private school and you didn’t meet at university, or play in the rugby club together, then it’s really hard to have that network in place to be able to be considered in the first place,” Ms. Berry lamented. (A. Robertson, ‘In multicultural Australia, corporate boardrooms are still overwhelmingly white Anglo-Saxon,’ abc.net.au, 2 October 2018).

Despite the claim to multiculturalism prejudice remain. It is not possible to dismiss that as recently in October 2018 a question was seriously being asked such as: “How much prejudice is there against Australians of Greek and Italian descent in Australia?

Interestingly one of the respondents noted: “Growing up as Greek Australian I did face some prejudice and discrimination, especially during my early school years where I had an ethnic name and could’t speak English properly. I did change my name to an Anglo name when I moved to a different school, but I still got some racial hate. The high school I went to, there was a clear distinction between the ‘skips/Aussies’ (Australians of Anglo and Celtic descent) and the ‘wogs’ (Australians of southern Europe, Balkan and Middle Eastern descent). There were constant racial fuelled fights during lunch breaks and even after school hours w[h]ere the groups would meet at certain locations and fight. I did repeatedly get told to ‘go back to my country you wog’, have been spat on, was called s ‘greasy hair wog’ and stuff like that. Even some teachers had obvious biases too. But I never paid much attention to it.

We have integrated into society quite well and, in fact, some Greeks and Italians now don’t acknowledge their own heritage. [Emphasis added]

There are still isolated incidences [sic] that do come up every now and then. But for the most part, it is limited to really backward thinking Bogans (Australia’s equivalent to a redneck). Most of us live our lives in peace and the prejudice and discrimination we once faced is a thing of the past.”

Xian Zhao, a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Management at University of Toronto at Mississauga, in a study appearing in Social psychological and personality science has observed that “We do not suggest immigrants to Anglicise their ethnic names in order to avoid discrimination” and “This certainly puts the onus on immigrants to promote equity and our previous studies also suggest that Anglicising names may have  negative implications for one’s self-concept.” (‘Biases Against Immigrants With Non-Anglicized Names’, eurasiareview.com, 27 December 2018).

There being no question as to existence of prejudice against minorities in Australia, one may well ask: is Australia racist? The question has disturbed and is returning from time to time amongst persons seriously concerned.

One of the biggest ever survey conducted on racism and prejudice in Australia was commissioned early in 2018 by Special Broadcasting Service with the Western Sydney University.

Professor Kevin Dunn, from Western Sydney University, led the survey of just over 6,000 respondents and examined issues including attitudes to cultural differences, tolerance of specific groups and racial hierarchy.

The conclusion was that one in five Australians had experienced racism in the previous twelve months.

More specifically:

  1. 31.6 per cent of respondents claimed to have ‘negative’ feelings towards Muslim Australians, 22.4 per cent claimed to have ‘negative’ feelings towards Middle-­‐Eastern Australians while only 9 per cent had negative feelings towards Aboriginal Australians.
  2. 36.4 per cent believe the number of immigrants accepted into Australia is too high or much too high.
  3. 41.1 per cent believe Australia is weakened by people of different ethnicities sticking to their old ways.
  4. 20.5 per cent believe that African refugees increase crime in Australia. Men and older participants were more likely to believe that African refugees increase crime.
  5. 32 per cent of respondents reported having experienced racism within their workplace. 32 per cent of respondents reported having experience racism within an educational facility.
  6. Those who belong to a Language Other Than English, LOTE background reported the highest rates of workplace racism (54.1 per cent) and racism within various educational institutions (55.8 per cent).
  7. The experience of racism on public transport or in the street was the highest at 34.1 per cent, followed by at a shop or shopping centre at 32.2 per cent. Online experiences of racism were also quite high at 28.2 per cent.
  8. Those of LOTE background experienced the highest rates of discrimination in shops/shopping centres (56.9 per cent), on public transport or in the street (58.2 per cent), and online (49.1 per cent).
  9. 48.6 per cent believe people from racial, ethnic, cultural and religious minorities groups should behave more like mainstream Australians.
  10. 54.4 per cent of respondents agreed that Australia should help refugees fleeing persecution in their homeland.43 per cent believe that all boats carrying asylum seekers should be turned back. (M. Acharya, ‘Is Australia racist? Here are 10 stunning stats?’, sbs.com.au, 8 April 2018).

When Dr. Tim Southphommasane, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, gave his final speech ahead of stepping down on 20 August 2018, his message struck a sombre tone. Racial disharmony is on the rise, he lamented.

Dr. Soutphommasane warned that Australia’s success as a multicultural society is under threat. This threat is not from extreme factional groups or mask-wearing fascists, it is from the mainstream of Australian public life. So wrote Professor Carl Rhodes, of the University of Technology, Sydney

The real danger, Dr. Southphommasane argued, comes from “dog-whistling politicians” and “race-baiting commentators” eager to harness populist attention through the careless “mixing of race and politics”. Just about a week later, Senator Fraser Anning proved how devastatingly true that was when he called for a “final solution” to “ethnocultural diversity” in Australia in his first speech to Parliament.

“There is much more to the resurgence of cultural and gender politics in Australia than that.” wrote Professor Rhodes.” More than the playing out democratic differences, this is the acting out of white male privilege in a democracy fast turning to tyranny.

It is an absolute affront to democracy, at least insofar as democracy is understood in terms of a way of life that values equality over elite privilege.

“Nowhere is the reality of [white male] privilege more blatantly obvious than in the workplace – a location where the intersection of whiteness and masculinity dominate top leadership,” wrote Professor Rhodes. And he confirmed that “Recent research reveals that 95 per cent of corporate executives have Anglo-Celtic or European heritage. Despite comprising almost half the workforce, only 5 per cent of C.E.O.s are women. A third of those companies have no women at all in executive roles.”

For the past two decades, the gender pay gap has favoured men by between 15 and 19 per cent. Of women, 28 per cent report having been sexually harassed at work.

Clearly, the comfort and spoils of the Australian workplace are disproportionally skewed towards white men on a vast scale. Only staunch advocates of patriarchal white supremacy would have the audacity to suggest Australia is an equal society when it comes to gender and cultural difference at work.

The brute facts of white male dominance in the workplace – and politics – demonstrate that the promise of equality that is built into the very idea of democracy is not being kept. (C. Rhodes, ‘Anning and Latham fight for a white male privilege ‘final solution’, independentaustralia.net, 17 August 2018).

As Dr. Soutphommasane intimated, “If there is now political unity against racism let’s start seeing that unity and leadership every day. No more racial hysteria about “African gangs”. No more false alarms about multicultural “separatism”. No more assaults on racial equality and the Racial Discrimination Act.”

Continued Wednesday – Comedy without art (part 5)

Previous instalment – Comedy without art (part 3)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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The damage Scott Morrison and his policy vacuum are inflicting on this country will be felt for decades

You could probably divide the world’s adult population into three groups. Those who have minds open to accepting new knowledge, those who have trouble absorbing anything that requires re-thinking what they have always accepted – and those who refuse to even consider that what they already know might not, in reality, be correct.

The essential scientific process is based on probability – an area which leaves many people a lot poorer after backing the wrong horse! In fact, the failure of education authorities to provide as many as possible of their students with a proper grounding in statistics and probability, enables a great many charlatans – political and otherwise – to flourish!

The scientist formulates an hypothesis to explain certain phenomena, gathers and then examines all possible evidence for the null hypothesis (i.e. that their hypothesis is false) and finally tests the power or probability that the null hypothesis is indeed true. They set a very high bar, and the whole process is very clearly documented so that fellow scientists, in the same specialist area, can repeat the process and compare results – this is what is known as peer review.

This makes it clear they are actually going in to bat for the opposition, as it were, and trying to prove their hypothesis is false – which should reassure those who believe that scientists are trying to prove their own theories!

You need to understand that peer reviewed research, when published, provides evidence of research which has been repeated and/or checked by other than the original specialist scientist, and which establishes scientific knowledge or fact – until and unless subsequent research updates those facts. Opinion has no place in this process and opinions provided by scientists in other discipline areas – unaccompanied by peer reviewed reports – carry no weight whatsoever.

Opinions published by those with neither scientific credentials nor, in particular, expert knowledge in the specific specialist area, should carry no weight and are simply smoke and mirrors, attempting to discredit, for whatever motive, information about the real scientific facts. Sadly, this succeeds far too often. The shock jocks are a source of misinformation for the gullible and should be banned, IMHO! They won’t be, because the profit motive beats social responsibility hands down!

Science and religion have fought many wars over the centuries.

Clearly documented, and available to all, is information on how the Catholic Church (and other Christian sects) have promoted the Holy Bible as being the word of god, and everything in that book is regarded as incontrovertible fact.

In fact, some religious so-called educators still promote the creationist theory – in flat contradiction of accepted knowledge of the development of the known universe.

Belief and opinion are often enemies of truth and at present we are witnessing the consequences of letting belief, opinion and vested interests, subvert public information and delay action which was shown, decades ago, to be necessary to avert catastrophic climate conditions.

Our current Prime Minister proudly boasts of his religious affiliations – a boast which should at once raise our suspicions that his judgement is biased and therefore faulty in any area which involves science!

His background as a failed marketer is responsible for his current, underhand way of promoting himself and fund-raising for the Liberal party in the guise of an information post on social media, linked to the Liberal party ‘Donate’ page!

He can’t help himself, because, on the evidence, he apparently is incapable of understanding the image he projects.

His party members are happy, because he has succeeded in leading them to an unexpected third term in government, but the damage he and his policy vacuum are inflicting on this country will be felt for decades – and may shorten many lives.

Throughout their current dominance in politics, the Coalition have promoted themselves as being better at managing the economy – and compliant media have supported this myth.

It seems that few people are aware of how massively the Australian debt has blown out since the Coalition undertook to restore the economy to balance. People do not understand national finances enough to realise that achieving a surplus is simply saying that, in the current fiscal year, the government will actually receive in taxes of all sorts – and from the sale of the country’s assets (thank you so much Peter Costello!) – more than it actually spends on services, while failing to mention that “As at July 1 2018, the budget estimate of net debt in Australia was about A$341.0 billion, up from A$174.5 billion in September 2013, when the Coalition took office. That’s an increase of A$166.5 billion, or roughly 95%, over almost five years.”

Fact Check: has Australia’s net debt doubled under the current government?

And when it comes to cutting services to achieve a surplus, what is the cost of damage to lives engendered by processes like Robodebt?

Emphasis on ‘fiscal rectitude’ has camouflaged incredible human damage, wherein the poor lack support and the borderline are actual driven into poverty and suicide.

And looming over all this is a genuine existential crisis which our government refuses to recognise by promoting appropriate actions.

It is worth repeating what everyone knows – Australia’s efforts alone will have minimal impact on world conditions but if every country took that same attitude, we are all doomed.

In fact, a significant number of countries, and States within a country in the case of the USA, are making great strides in developing policies which radically reduce the use of fossil fuels and counter pollution.

The start of serious efforts has come so late that we will be playing catch-up if we are to bequeath to our grandchildren a world in which they can do better than merely exist.

We need every innovation to be explored and every viable invention put into action.

We still have time – just – but, under this government, Australia appears to totally lack understanding of what is required.

The Prime Minister only returned early from a totally ill-timed holiday because his reputation was taking a public battering.

He only developed a policy to support the fire-fighters because he was pressured into doing so.

Initially he only offered financial support to volunteer firies in NSW – his home state – until he was made aware that it had to be a national offer.

Instead of having an experienced Public Service to advise him, he has been relying on advice from political advisers.

Their advice is directed to keeping him in power – not into doing what is right for Australia!

There are so many things on which we could expect our national government to be formulating national policy, while we have a Prime Minister who seems intent on throwing all responsibility to the State governments!

If our accidental PM had a vestige of commonsense, he would be forming a national, non-partisan government, including representatives from all states and political areas, plus experts from the CSIRO and other appropriate scientific and service organisations to deal with the climate emergency, housing those displace by the fires, related employment and food production issues – you could make your own list – it is endless and needs careful prioritising.

We are at war with the elements and the country needs to be on a wartime footing.

Can you do it, Prime Minister?

If you do not have the bottle, then step aside and let others take on a job which appears to demand more than you can give.

Once more – this is my Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

Will you join me and get out on the streets – maybe Australia Day would be appropriate? – and tell those whom we rashly elected that they need to go because they are not governing for us!

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El Paso – the United States’ descent into xenophobic barbarism (part 20)

By Europaeus *

Continued from Part 19

Moyers: I want to ask you about another side of him that is taken up in the book. It involves the much-discussed video that appeared during the campaign last year which had been made a decade or so ago when Trump was newly married. He sees this actress outside his bus and he says, “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,” and then we hear sounds of Tic Tacs before Trump continues. “You know,” he says, “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet, just kiss, I don’t even wait.” And then you can hear him boasting off camera, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything, grab them by the… You can do anything.”

Lifton: In addition to being a strongman and a dictator, there’s a pervasive sense of entitlement. Whatever he wants, whatever he needs in his own mind, he can have. It’s a kind of American celebrity gone wild, but it’s also a vicious anti-female perspective and a caricature of male macho. That’s all present in Trump as well as the solipsism that I mentioned earlier, and that’s why when people speak of him as all-pervasive on many different levels of destructiveness, they’re absolutely right.

Moyers: And it seems to extend deeply into his relationship with his own family. There’s a chapter in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump with the heading, “Trump’s Daddy Issues.” There’s several of his quotes about his daughter, Ivanka. He said, “You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody, and I helped create her? Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s 6 feet tall. She’s got the best body.”

Again: “I said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” Ivanka was 22 at the time. To a reporter he said: “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married – and, you know, her father…”

When Howard Stern, the radio host, started to say, “By the way, your daughter – ” Trump interrupted him with “She’s beautiful.” Stern continued, “Can I say this? A piece of ass.” To which Trump replied, “Yeah.” What’s going on here?

Lifton: In addition to everything else and the extreme narcissism that it represents, it’s a kind of unbridled sense of saying anything on one’s mind as well as an impulse to break down all norms because he is the untouchable celebrity. So just as he is the one man who can fix things for the country, he can have every woman or anything else that he wants, or abuse them in any way he seeks to.

Moyers: You mentioned extreme narcissism. I’m sure you knew Erich Fromm –

Lifton: Yes, I did.

Moyers: – one of the founders of humanistic psychology. He was a Holocaust survivor who had a lifelong obsession with the psychology of evil. And he said that he thought “malignant narcissism” was the most severe pathology – “the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity.” Do you think malignant narcissism goes a long way to explain Trump?

Lifton: I do think it goes a long way. In early psychoanalytic thought, narcissism was – and still, of course, is – self-love. The early psychoanalysts used to talk of libido directed at the self. That now feels a little quaint, that kind of language. But it does include the most fierce and self-displaying form of one’s individual self. And in this way, it can be dangerous. When you look at Trump, you can really see someone who’s destructive to any form of life enhancement in virtually every area. And if that’s what Fromm means by malignant narcissism, then it definitely applies.

Moyers: You said earlier that Trump and his administration have brought about a kind of malignant normalcy – that a dangerous president can become normalized. When the Democrats make a deal with him, as they did recently, are they edging him a little closer to being accepted despite this record of bizarre behavior?

Lifton: We are normalizing him when the Democrats make a deal with him. But there’s a profound ethical issue here and it’s not easily answered. If something is good for the country – perhaps the deal that the Democrats are making with Donald Trump is seen or could be understood by most as good for the country, dealing with the debt crisis – is that worth doing even though it normalizes him? If the Democrats do go ahead with this deal, they should take steps to make clear that they’re opposing other aspects of his presidency and of him.

Moyers: There’s a chapter in the book entitled, “He’s Got the World in His Hands and His Finger on the Trigger.” Do you ever imagine him sitting alone in his office, deciding on a potentially catastrophic course of action for the nation? Say, with five minutes to decide whether or not to unleash thermonuclear weapons?

Lifton: I do. And like many, I’m deeply frightened by that possibility. It’s said very often that, OK, there are people around him who can contain him and restrain him. I’m not so sure they always can or would. In any case, it’s not unlikely that he could seek to create some kind of crisis, if he found himself in a very bad light in relation to public opinion and close to removal from office. So yes, I share that fear and I think it’s a real danger. I think we have to constantly keep it in mind, be ready to anticipate it and take whatever action we can against it. The American president has particular power. This makes Trump the most dangerous man in the world. He’s equally dangerous because of his finger on the nuclear trigger and because of his mind ensconced in solipsistic reality. The two are a dreadful combination. [Emphasis added]

Moyers: One of your colleagues writes in the book, “Sociopathic traits may be amplified as the leader discovers that he can violate the norms of civil society and even commit crimes with impunity. And the leader who rules through fear, lies and betrayal may become increasingly isolated and paranoid as the loyalty of even his closest confidants must forever be suspect.” Does that sound like Trump?

Lifton: It’s already happening. We see that it’s harder and harder to work for him. It’s hard enough even for his spokesperson to affirm his falsehoods. These efforts are not too convincing and they become less convincing from the radius outward, in which people removed from his immediate circle find it still more difficult to believe him and the American public finds it more difficult. He still can appeal to his base because in his base there is a narrative of grievance that centers on embracing Trump without caring too much about whether what he says is true or false. He somehow fits into their narrative. But that can’t go on forever, and he’s losing some of his formerly loyal supporters as well. So he is becoming more isolated. That has its own dangers, but it’s inevitable that it would happen with a man like this as his falsehoods are contested.

Moyers: You bring up his base. Those true believers aren’t the only ones who voted for him. As we are talking, I keep thinking: Here we have a man who kept asking what’s the point of having thermonuclear weapons if we cannot use them; who advocates using torture or worse against our prisoners of war; who urged that five innocent young people here in New York, black young people, be given the death penalty for a sexual assault, even after it was proven someone else had committed the crime; who boasted about his ability to get away with sexually assaulting women because of his celebrity and power; who urged his followers at political rallies to punch protesters in the face and beat them so badly that they have to be taken out on stretchers; who suggested that maybe some of his followers might want to assassinate his political rival, Hillary Clinton, if she were elected president, or at the very least, throw her in prison; who believes he would not lose voters if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot someone. And over 63 million people voted to elect that man president!

Lifton: Yes, that’s a deeply troubling truth. And I doubt the people who voted for him were thinking about any of these things. What they were really responding to was a call for change, a sense that he was connecting with them in ways that others never had, that he would express and represent their interests, and that he would indeed make this country one dominated again by white people, in some cases white supremacists. But as you say, these people who embraced that narrative unquestioningly are a lesser minority than the ones who voted for him. And of course, he still didn’t win the popular vote. But it’s true – something has gone wrong with our democratic system in electing a man with all these characteristics that make up Donald Trump. Now we have to struggle to sustain the functional institutions of our democracy against his assault on them. I don’t think he’ll succeed in breaking them down, but he’s doing a lot of harm and it’ll take a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people to sustain them and to keep the democracy going, even in its faltering way. [Emphasia added]

Moyers: He still has the support of 80 percent of Republican voters – 4 out of 5. And it seems the Republican Party will tolerate him as long as they’re afraid of the intensity of his followers.

Lifton: Yes, and that’s another very disturbing thought. Things there could change quickly too. What I sense is that the whole situation is chaotic and volatile, so that any time now there could be further pronouncements, further information about Russia and about obstruction of justice, or another attempt of Trump to start firing people, including Mueller, and that this would create a constitutional crisis which would create more pressure on Republicans and everybody else. So even though that is an awful truth about the Republicans’ hypocrisy in continuing to support him, that could change, I think, almost overnight if the new information were sufficiently damning to Trump and his administration.

Moyers: Let’s talk about the “Trump Effect” on the country. One aspect of it was the increase in bullying in schools caused by the rhetoric used by Trump during the campaign. But it goes beyond that.

Lifton: I think Trump has had a very strong and disturbing effect on the country already. He has given more legitimacy to white supremacy and even to neo-fascist groups, and he’s created a pervasive atmosphere that’s more vague but still significant. I don’t believe that he can in his own way destroy the country, just as he can’t eliminate climate awareness, but he can go a long way in bringing – well, in stimulating what has always been a potential.

You mentioned Erich Fromm. I met him through [the sociologist] David Riesman. David Riesman was a close friend, a great authority on American society. He emphasized how there’s always an underbelly in American society of extreme conservatism and reactionary response, and when there’s any kind of progressive movement, there’s likely to be a backlash of reaction to it. Trump is very much in that backlash to any kind of progressive achievement or even decent situation in society. He is stimulating feelings that are potential and latent in our society, but very real, and rendering them more active and more dangerous. And in that way, he’s having a very harmful effect that I think mounts every single day. [Emphasis added]

Moyers: Some people who have known Trump for years say he’s gotten dramatically worse since he was inaugurated. In the prologue to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, Dr. Judith Lewis Herman writes this: “Fostered by the flattery of underlings and the chants of crowds, a political leader’s grandiosity may morph into grotesque delusions of grandeur.” Does that …

Lifton: That’s absolutely true. It’s absolutely true. And for anyone with these traits – of feeling himself victimized, of seeking to be the strongman who resolves everything, yet sees truth only through his own self and negates all other truth outside of it – is bound to become much more malignant when he has power. That’s what Judith Herman is saying, and she’s absolutely right. Power then breeds an intensification of all this because the power can never be absolute power – to some extent it’s stymied – but the isolation while in power becomes even more dangerous. Think of it as a vicious circle. The power intensifies these tendencies and the tendencies become more dangerous because of the power.

Moyers: But suppose that if Donald Trump is crazy, as some have said, he’s crazy like a fox, which is to say all this bizarre behavior is really clever strategy to mislead, distract and deceive others into responding in precisely the manner that he wants them to.

Lifton: I don’t think that’s quite true. I think that it’s partly true. As I said before, Trump both disbelieves and believes in falsehoods, so that when he did thrive on his longstanding and perhaps most egregious falsehood – the claim that Obama was not born in the United States – he’s crazy like a fox in manipulating it because it gave him his political entrée onto the national stage – and also, incidentally, was not rejected by many leading Republicans. So he was crazy like a fox in that case. But it’s more extreme even than that. In order to make your falsehoods powerful, you have to believe in them in some extent. And that’s why we simplify things if we say that Trump either believes nothing in his falsehoods and is just manipulating us like a fox or he completely believes them. Neither is true. The combination of both and his talent as a manipulator and falsifier are very much at issue.

Moyers: You may not remember it, but you and I talked 16 years ago this very week – a few days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. ll – and PBS had asked me to go on the air to talk to a variety of people about their response to those atrocities.

Lifton: I haven’t forgotten it, Bill.

Moyers: And in our discussion, we talked about your book, Destroying the World to Save It, about that extremist Japanese religious cult aum shinrikyo that released sarin nerve gas in Tokyo subways, you compared their ideology to Osama bin Laden: “He wanted to destroy a major part of the world to purify the world. There was in this idea, or his ideology, a sense of renewal.” We saw it in that Japanese cult. So the issue I am getting at is that such an aspiration can take hold of any true believer – the desire to purify the world no matter the cost.

Lifton: It is a very dangerous aspiration, and it’s not absent from the Trump presidency, although I don’t think it’s his central theme. I think it’s a central theme in Steve Bannon, for instance, who is an apocalyptic character and really wants to bring down most of advanced society as we know it, most of civilization as we know it, in order to recreate it in his image. I think Trump has some attraction to that, just as he had attraction to Bannon as a person and as a thinker, and that influence is by no means over. He’s still in touch with Bannon. So there is this apocalyptic influence in the Trumpean presidency: The world is destroyed in order to be purified and renewed in the ideal way that is projected by a Steve Bannon. And there is a sense of that when Trump says we’ll make America great again, because he says it’s been destroyed, he will remake it. So there is an apocalyptic suggestion, but I don’t think it’s at the very heart of his presidency.

Moyers: So our challenge is?

Lifton: I always feel we have to work both outside and inside of our existing institutions, so we have to really be careful about who we vote for and examine carefully our institutions and what they’re meant to do and how they’re being violated. I also think we need movements from below that oppose what this administration and administrations like it are doing to ordinary people. And for those of us who contributed to this book – well, as I said earlier, we have to be “witnessing professionals” and fulfill our duty to warn.” (The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Robert Jay Lifton and Bill Moyers on ‘A duty to warn’, billmoyers.com, 14 September 2017).

So, if one accept that no-one as mentally unstable as President Trump should be entrusted with the life-and-death powers of the presidency, could one be entitled to say that America has lost its grip on reality?

Or should that view be confined to Donald J. Trump?

Watching any part of the impeachment hearings, one would realise that there are at least two different versions of reality – not simply disagreements about facts and interpretation, but about reality itself.

Professor Lifton argues that one way to understand the America of Donald J. Trump is to consider the phenomenon of what he calls “ideological totalism.” He explains the similarities between the current ideological polarisation and efforts like Chinese communist thought reform in the early 1950s. The one element which makes today different – he says – is Trump’s lack of ideology. Instead, the President lives in a self-created “solipsistic reality” – the self is all which can be known to exist.

In Lipton’s view, Trump’s appeal, in part, to something he calls “psychological apocalypticism,” a pull toward “a new collective mindset which is pure, perfect, and eternal.” This combines a desire to be part of something bigger than oneself with a call to share in the effort of destroying reality in order to save the world.

Professor Lipton details the parallels between cult leaders and demagogic politicians, and makes reference to some of President Trump’s statements, going back to the inaugural address, when he spoke of “American carnage” and asserted that “I alone can fix it.”

Still, the public has been left to wonder whether Donald J. Trump is mad, bad, or both. The prestigious mental health experts who have contributed to the expanded and updated version of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (same publisher, 26 March 2019) argue that their moral and civic “duty to warn” supersedes professional neutrality. Whatever affects him, affects the nation: from the trauma people have experienced under the Trump Administration to the cult-like characteristics of his followers, he has created unprecedented mental health consequences across America and beyond. With eight new essays and about one hundred pages of new material, the updated edition covers the dangerous ramifications of Trump’s unnatural state during the first two years of his administration. Readers are assured that “it is not all in their heads.” It is in his.

Continued Thursday … (Part 21)

 

* Europaeus landed in Australia over fifty years ago. Except for the blue skies and starry nights between 02.12.1972 and 10.11.1975 the place has been constantly overwhelmed by what Hannah Arendt called the ‘sand storm’ – a metaphor for totalitarianism.

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Morrison’s credibility as leader goes up in a cloud of smoke.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down and still somehow

It’s cloud’s illusions I recall

I really don’t know clouds at all

Clouds Joni  Mitchell

Clouds or clowns? The week’s politics offers both. A toxic miasma of 250 million tonnes of CO2 and clouds of sooty bushfire-smoke blanket vast tracts of eastern Australia yet also expose the Morrison government’s total leadership fail, while professional clown, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has a huge win over truth, justice and democracy in the UK. In the US, Democrats finalise two articles of impeachment that are unlikely to bother President, Donald Teflon Trump.

“There is no Republican Party,” John Boehner, who served as House Speaker from 2011 to 2015, said last year. “There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”

Ditto for the UK Conservative Party. And for Australia’s Liberals who retain the name only as some sick joke. Hilarious. Meanwhile, is Gus the badly-burned victim of the author of The Beauty Myth‘s vicious, anti-Semitism or is he just crying wolf? Could Angus Taylor be making some kind of Johnsonian run to be Australia’s next Prime Minister ? You decide.

What’s clear is Energy, Emission Reduction and Round-up Minister, Angus Taylor, is under a cloud of his own; the noxious emanations of allegations of outrageous water rorting, document forging and alleged lobbying of an environmental compliance officer (ECO) in 2016. The explanation he allegedly offers does not stack up.

Taylor sought permission to poison kangaroo or red anther wallaby grass and an associated threatened ecological community in the thirty hectare Jam Land grasslands in Monaro region NSW, a property located outside his electorate of Hume, weakening Taylor’s claim that his meeting was prompted solely by his constituents’ concerns.

Taylor did, however, meet with Geoff Richardson, the Department of Environment and Energy’s Assistant Secretary for the protected species and communities branch.

The department had prepared a briefing document on the grasslands which explained that the species had been protected since 2000 and that, collectively, temperate grasslands are among the most threatened vegetation in Australia, with only about 5% remaining in relatively undisturbed condition. It’s an indictment of our introduced agricultural practices and our land abuse.

Jam Land Pty Ltd is a Taylor family linked company in which one of Angus’ Cayman Island-registered companies has an interest through his family investment company Gufee. His brother, Richard Taylor, is the director of the company.

Now parliament’s shut its doors for 2019, hola! Gus is off like the clappers to Madrid. Labor wouldn’t grant him a pair, what with Scott Morrison’s erstwhile neighbour, former bin brother and mate, top NSW cop, Commissioner Mick Fuller, at the head of a strike force, he says is actively investigating Taylor over Clover gate.

Barnaby Joyce says Clover gate is a “triviality” which has gone on far too long. Leaking a false document to the Daily Tele to discredit Clover Moore is trivial? All the mayor has done is write to Taylor; tell him to lift his game on climate change.

At least Gus makes the last week of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP25 which involves 190 nations. Why rush? No-one’s all that keen to see him.

Australia has already earned the Fossil of the Day award. Twice. Will Taylor, a noted wind-energy critic with close coal industry links be having another public tilt at windmills? Nope. Instead he ties up the conference with Kyoto credit nonsense.

Just to get the facts in context, Australia is responsible for about 1.3% of annual pollution, as our PM is fond of boasting. But this places us 16th on a ladder of polluting nations. We emit more each year than 40 countries with larger populations, including G7 members Britain, France and Italy.

Talk about punching below your weight.

Gus gives a speech which reprises former Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s twaddle about our “meeting and beating our targets” (but only if we cheat; use our carry over from Kyoto cop-out). Courageously, Taylor skips our outrageous plans to use 411m tonnes of CO2-equivalent credits from the previous Kyoto targets against the government’s newer Paris commitment. But he leaves it to delegates to resolve.

Absent from any reporting, or any Australian communication, is the story of how Howard Government Senator Robert Hill argued late in the night in Kyoto in 1997; how reliant Australia is on fossil fuel industries. How we needed a special favour.  Hill got his way. Whereas Europe promised to reduce emissions by 8% by 2012, compared with the base year of 1990, and the US agreed to cut by 7%, Australia was one of three countries allowed to increase emissions – by 8%.

But that wasn’t enough. Long after most major players had gone home or had passed out from exhaustion, Hill got the UN to accept land-clearing; include land-use changes in calculating emissions. The Guardian Australia’s Lenore Taylor sums up,

Restrictions that had already been imposed on large-scale land clearing – especially in Queensland – allowed Australia to rest assured it had achieved its new target before it even signed up to it.”

In other words, Angus Taylor is on a fool’s errand if he thinks he can sell our Kyoto carryover caper yet again. Yet in our brave new world where Trump’s United States can just pull out of Paris, how much does good faith really matter?

Taylor flies out Friday leaving a skeleton crew of Australian negotiators to put the carry-over case. Observers expect negotiations on carbon trading rules and other issues to last until at least Sunday, Australian time. Only Australia is willing to play that card says John O’Connor CEO of the Carbon Markets Institute and it’s not winning us any friends.

There’s a more than a touch of the quixotic; a lot of Boris in Angus Taylor -beyond each MP’s wealth, their hidebound sense of privilege and entitlement, their membership of elite families, their Oxonian education and their ludicrous buffoonery. In Taylor’s case, unlike Boris, however, the class act is also a family affair. Enter Louise Clegg.

Gussie’s wife, Sydney barrister Louise Clegg, unreliably rumoured on social media to have local government aspirations in Sydney, but who “does not speak to journalists”, is quoted in the Australian Financial Review warning that rolling blackouts might be needed to teach people that “left populism (is) not the answer” to Australia’s policy challenges. Opposed to coal? Let them light candles instead.

Some Liberal malcontents mutter about having a Minister for emissions reductions who doesn’t actually want to reduce emissions but that’s Scott Morrison’s trademark perversity in his captain’s call in allocating ministries to MPs with opposing interests and backgrounds. Keeps everyone on their toes. Fantastic. Great move. Well done, Angus.

“Tickets” Taylor clearly sees himself as “a rising Liberal star” who may be only a Dutton coup away from being Deputy Prime Minister. Or are his sights already on the top job? He’s certainly attracting a lot of attention in track work. Just not the right type of attention.

Gus fully expects to be allowed to play Kyoto-Carryover, a party trick, a rare form of carbon emission-figure-fiddling while Spain burns along with the rest of the world. Editor Maddison Connaughton observes in The Saturday Paper,

“In Madrid, Angus Taylor argues for carryover credits, so that the government might do less. The world is slowly ending and he is doing a card trick. He is not even doing it well, and has to ask the other countries if they will pretend they didn’t see him cheating.”

It helps to have galloping Gus out of the country while NSW police investigate The Mystery of the Doctored Documents, another Canberra soap bubble opera which concerns false claims about Sydney City Council’s exorbitant overseas travel bill his office dropped to the Daily Telegraph 30 September to discredit the green credentials of Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore. Any day or month now, police are bound to solve this baffling case, given how much rides on its speedy resolution. Or not. Imagine how our AFP, with full TV camera crews, would bust Gussies’ office if he were Labor.

But now to BoJo, who modestly claims a huge great stonking mandate” in the UK general election, over anti-Semitic, socialist, dotard, Jeremy Corbyn – who offends the press by not immediately resigning; outliving his political demise. Bojo’s win heartens our own Coalition government of secrets, lies and rubbery figures and its Tory Story supporters in Murdoch’s The Australian, whose orgy of Corbyn-bashing parallels its relentless character assassination of Shorten in its epic Kill Bill campaign.

Australia’s sons let us rejoice in a victory for vanity and mediocrity. Even The New York Time’s Jenni Russell describes the contest in terms that would delight the late, great, absurdist, dramaturge Samuel Beckett:

Two vain, incompetent, mediocre charlatans are competing to become prime minister. For the Conservatives, we have the blustering, lying, oafish puffball Boris Johnson. In the Labour corner is the querulous, wooden, sanctimonious Jeremy Corbyn.”

In mirror images of our own oxymoronic Coalition’s MPs, Russell sees each UK pretender as ill- briefed, hazy on the facts and implications of policy proposals, uneasy under scrutiny and belligerent when challenged. Yet, again, as in our local, national soap opera “How good is Australia?” both MPs meet realities of stagnant wage growth, galloping economic inequality and a mounting workers’ sense of helplessness with lies – especially Boris’ Brexit consoling fantasy.

As both ScoMo and Donald Trump know, illusion and deceit can build a type of rusted-on loyalty; feed our emotional need to believe that our leader is on our team. It’s a blind faith; at best indifferent to facts – if not downright hostile.

How Good is Australia has a sequel. How good are Quiet Australians? It’s a narrative about blind obedience; a type of group-think loyalty which scorns key detail and elevates faith above empiricism, especially the science of climate change.

If you are going to tell a lie tell a big one. Angus Taylor knows that. The big lie is back -if it ever went. If your big lie looks absurd, then launch an even more outrageous counterfactual counter-attack. The figures did not come from Clover Moore’s Sydney Council website. Throw a staffer, such as Josh Manuatu, under a bus. Then attack Naomi Wolf for her Christmas Tree War. When that’s exposed as a blatant lie, call the Jewish feminist writer an anti-Semite. Or sexist.

What’s wonderful about Gus’ contribution to our public conversation is its inspired inclusivity. No elitism here. After all, most of us were Rhodes Scholars together at Oxford. We all have a Jewish grandmother somewhere and we’re all on first name terms with Naomi. Probably send her Christmas cards. Talk to her about how good is attending Mass.

Boris’ big lie? A quickie divorce from foreign control, the parasites, bludgers and tinpot dictators of the EU will make Britain great again. Instead, he’s more likely to preside over Scottish independence than anything faintly like the Great Britain of his followers’ magical thinking. Probably about one hundred years too late, Boris.

But, in a post truth age, deceit rules. Victory goes to best clown.  In a debased, corruption of the court jester, the most plausible liar, the most brazen dissembling toady to the powerful, wins. Enter the PM as best crowd-pleaser.

As with Trump, local fans bust a gut to cheer on a fellow fraud; rally around his bigotry, ignorance and monumental incompetence. Lionise his repulsiveness. Naturally, Pete Costello’s Nine News’ Sydney Morning Herald throws to our own James McGrath.

“You don’t become mayor of London, you don’t become foreign secretary, you don’t become the elected leader of the Tories, you don’t become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and you don’t secure a new Brexit deal against the odds by being a dunderhead,” slobbers Johnson’s former aide, our senator for Adani, local savant McGrath.

Unlucky Jim McGrath, “Let them go if they don’t like it here” was fired, by Boris, in 2008 for telling older, Afro-Caribbean Britons to return to the Caribbean if they didn’t like the vibe and other vast benefits of Tory rule in London.

You don’t become? – clearly, you do, Jimmy. Above all, your former boss, Boris’ has the gift of the gaffe. BJ’s way with words supercharges his natural tact, his homophobia, xenophobia and misogyny. It’s unifying. Uplifting. Inspiring.

Gay men love it when Boris calls them, “tank-topped bum-boys”. Women in burqas are cheered to hear Boris; ” would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”

Britons in general -not just racist Brexiteers, are also hugely comforted to know that if “a female student turned up at school or a university lecture looking like a bank robber” Boris would ask her to remove it [the burqa] to speak to her.

Despite being fired for telling lies as a journalist, urbane, cosmopolitan Boris is a peerless wordsmith. Who else could claim, “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.” ?

Boris will Get Brexit Done, Rupert’s local toadies croak. It’s Johnson’s only slogan. Yes. The Oz is a political party in its own right, as Kevin Rudd knows. But hold the front page. Getting Brexit done will create a bonanza Down Under all wrought by the miracle of UK trade deals with Australia which will be signed off within a year. It’s a done deal.

Oddly overlooked by The Oz is that there’s not a skerrick of evidence to suppose that Johnson can get anything done. Au contraire, apart from Boris’ sheer brilliance as professional fabulist, serial womaniser and a policy-free zone on a bicycle – his entire political career is one of unrelieved, bungling ineptitude. And malignant narcissism.

Unless, of course you admire Boris’ cunning stunts and his peerless record for cop-outs and cock-ups. Crass theatrics. Above all, is Johnson’s endearing laziness, his inspiring, Trump-like resolve not to bother with the fine print or even read briefings at all.

Also forgotten by The Oz is heretical research that shows that our own, upright, tax-evading, wage-stealing business class are fully occupied in being the backbone of the nation -having a go and getting a go. They mostly can’t understand free trade deals, don’t use them because they are too complicated –  or they’ve lost buckets of money on them in the past.

Unsurprisingly, a survey of Australian businesses, big and small, conducted last year by our august Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, found local tycoons largely ignore free trade agreements.

Yet, in another sign of the times, Johnson’s Tory Party win is a big victory for mendacity. Morrison’s mob will take great comfort that Johnson’s government was helped into being by a farrago of online lies.

First Draft, a disinformation tracking organisation, finds 88 per cent of the most widely circulated online Tory ads during the first four days of December were misleading. That’s nearly all of them. First Draft found no Labor disinformation in the same period.

But it’s another thing to try to lie your way out of a real crisis; one that demands a rational response and real leadership – as Boris and Scott Morrison will discover.

A noxious miasma of acrid smoke smothers the yellow brick roads of The Emerald City poisoning Sydney’s air, over twelve times hazardous levels in Camden and Liverpool, Tuesday, as catastrophic fires continue to ravage the east coast of Australia, consuming over 2.7 million hectares of bush and destroying seven hundred homes in four weeks.

Commuters choke. Hospital emergency admissions soar. Ferry services are cancelled. Yet no smoke is thick enough to cloak the federal government’s wilful blindness; its failure of leadership. Morrison’s government is being tried by fire; bushfires of unprecedented scale and ferocity. And it is found lacking -utterly, comprehensively lacking. Not a clue what to do but to retreat into a type of paralysis.

The smoke is thick enough to trigger alarms at Liberal HQ in Sydney where Australia’s climate science denialist Prime Minister Scott Morrison neatly sidesteps the nation’s catastrophic bushfire crisis by holding a press conference on his post-truth, post-government’s religious discrimination bill, a sop to his right wing, which effectively foments intolerance by extending the definition of religious organisations to include hospitals and Op-shops. Smoke prevents from leaving the building.

“Let’s not beat around the bush … let’s call it for what it is. These bushfires have been caused by extreme weather events, high temperatures, the worst drought in living memory – the exact type of events scientists have been warning us about for decades that would be caused by climate change,” says Matt Kean, who is the leader at state level of the NSW Liberals’ moderate faction.

Kean is quickly clobbered; he cops a hiding for being right in The Australian. He’s accused of using the bogeyman of climate change as an excuse for not introducing any new initiatives – whatever they might be. It’s a straw man argument in which the Australian specialises. He’s also – shock – horror –“politicising the fires”.

“The [no new initiatives] revelation comes after Mr Kean attracted criticism for politicising the devastating fires — which have seen six people killed and more than 720 homes destroyed so far this season — by claiming the nation needed to prioritise the urgent reduction of carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic bushfire seasons becoming the new norm.”  Expect a lot more of this type of smear before the season of peace on earth and goodwill to all men and women is over.

But a few festive season shout outs are in order. Merry Christmas aged care executives – enjoy your $12 billion dollar a year subsidy and congratulations in lobbying govt to vote down Aged Care 2019 amendments to make aged care accountable  – as recommended by the current Royal Commission.

Public health researcher, Dr Sarah Russell, reports for veteran Walkley Award winning investigative reporter Michael West how a “few big interests” run our coalition government was on full show last week, when three critical amendments to the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019 were tabled. The Liberal-Nationals voted against all amendments.”

The amendments would have been a watershed in aged care – holding private firms accountable for their duty of care rather than maximising their profits. To vote down the reforms makes a mockery of the Commission’s findings and stalls vital transparency and accountability around finances, staffing ratios and complaints in aged care homes.

Yet you’ll hear a lot of boasts about the number of new home care packages available. Few of us are ever frail enough to warrant any kind of care package at all. Most packages available to average candidates offer very limited practical help.

The elderly do not need neoliberal packaging, any more outsourcing, service-delivering or commodifying. They need a government prepared to exercise humanity and to reform a system which horrifies Royal Commissioners by its cruelty, its abuse and its neglect of our senior citizens – all in the interests of a privatised age care system which works mainly for the financial benefit of owners and investors..

Season’s greetings also to all pensioners who may still be able to fend for themselves.

Waiting until the last sitting day, the Coalition uses its numbers to quietly push through its Social Security Integrity Bill which will make life harder for 400,000 Australians. Newstart recipients are mostly over 45. A quarter are over 55 years old.

Labor’s Linda Burney, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services is furious at the arbitrary, uncaring injustice.

” … the two onerous or odious bits of this bill is what’s called the Liquid Assets Waiting Time. If you are a middle aged man, who’s lost their job; been made redundant; and you have more than $36,000 in the bank – or if you’re single and have $18,000 in the bank – the government wants to double the wait time before you can access social security.

So it’ll go from 13 weeks to 36 weeks, which is half a year. And it means that the government expects people to run down all their savings – any buffer they’ve got for a disaster in their life, like sickness – before they can access social security.

The second aspect of this bill which is odious as well is what’s called the migrant wait time. That means if you’re someone that’s migrating here from overseas, and you go back to your home country for more than six weeks the government wants to take the age pension supplement off you.

One final image of a government out of touch with those in its duty of care; a government crippled by internal division and its servitude to climate change deniers in its ranks and its donors; our coal barons and fossil fuel magnates, occurs Tuesday.

The bushfire smog is so thick that it triggers fire alarms trapping occupants of Liberal HQ in Sydney. Prevented from leaving also, is a climate science denialist PM who is trapped in a building by smoke from fires fuelled by man-made global warming, a term which the press has largely dropped in favour of the neutral “climate change”.

Time to drop the ideology, Mr Morrison. If you can’t join the dots connecting climate change and catastrophic bushfires, it’s high time you stepped aside in favour of someone who can. Or sought advice from experts. Not turn away when former fire chiefs try to help you with their advice and expertise.

Given your government’s track record, so far, however, it’s clear that you are a dangerous liability in the current crisis. You are not just fiddling while a nation burns, you are feeding the flames with your inertia, your policy paralysis, your wretched climate science denial. Time to declare a state of national climate emergency as a first step to taking the type of emergency action that experts are urging you to adopt.

Twenty-three former fire and emergency leaders say they tried for months to warn you that Australia needed more water-bombers to tackle bigger, faster and hotter bushfires. Former NSW Fire and Rescue chief Greg Mullins — one of the founders of the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action Group — says his group’s been seeking a meeting with Federal Government to discuss the crisis since April.

Subsequent pleas fall on deaf ears. Time to act step aside in favour of someone who can. Australia’s current crop of catastrophic fires are not about petty party politics and climate science denial. They are a real and pressing danger you need to address now.

Call the National Summit which Greg Mullins and Lee Johnson, two former fire chiefs from NSW and Queensland, say we need immediately to work out “how to deal with the increasing strain on volunteers battling more extreme and frequent bushfires, but also how Australia deals with fire in a changed climate.” Listen to them.

“What we’re saying long term is there needs to be a paradigm shift for how we deal with these fires,” former chief of NSW Fire and Rescue Greg Mullins says.

“A big national conversation needs to be had. We need farmers, councils, the military, politics.”  Of course, it won’t solve the crisis but it’s a very good start.

Instead we have a federal government and a headstrong, obdurately stubborn PM unwilling and incapable of taking any advice that is not his own or from powerful cronies whose views he already shares. It’s a lethal combination. A deadly Canberra bubble all of Scott Morrison and his ministers’ own making.

Don’t look to Boris Johnson’s win as some kind of vindication; far better that you treat it as a warning that even a lunatic, incompetent, clown born with a silver spoon in his mouth can get elected PM but there’s no reason to believe he knows remotely where to begin when it comes to governing. Nor does he have the personality or the nous to ever learn. If that sounds familiar, it’s time you, yourself, stood aside or at least owned your own cluelessness. The bluffing just adds another potentially lethal layer of disaster.

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A Whale of a Taylor – too.

“People aren’t spending” sighs Fran Kelly at the end of ABC Insiders Sunday, blaming us for the government’s epic failure to manage the economy. It’s always the victim’s fault. Yet if you don’t have it, you can’t spend it.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) records a snail’s pace in the latest increase in household incomes. ABS data shows a healthy increase from 1995 through until 2012, the period of the Howard and then Rudd/Gillard governments. Then it collapses in 2013. It is yet to recover. No wonder 9,300 retail stores will close their doors this year.

Average wealth per adult Australian, also fell by $US28,670 in 2018-2019 reports Credit Suisse in its annual global wealth report. Although Credit Suisse’s calculation includes falling house prices and a falling Australian dollar – and despite Australians remaining among the wealthiest in the world, the report confirms economic mismanagement.

We are one of a tiny minority of countries with wealth per adult lower in 2019 than back in 2012.

Vast amounts of wealth are being shunted offshore with little or no benefit to the people of Australia.

“There is no mineral resources rent tax, no other scheme to retain wealth in Australia, tax avoidance and evasion are rife, the Tax Office’s audit and enforcement divisions are severely understaffed and the Government keeps giving handouts to its foreign corporate mates,” writes Alan Austin.

What is improving is the Coalition’s strangle-hold on the media, helped in the ABC’s case by $84 million budget cuts, intimidating calls to head office, stacking of the board and a PM’s captain’s pick of Ita Buttrose as ABC Chair. AFP raids on working journalists help to increase the state’s pressure on everyone not to criticise; step out of line.

Journos pick up the vibe. Last week, Kelly’s love-in with work experience kid, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg aids and abets Coalition’s lies about its comprehensive, colossal failure to manage the Australian economy.

“When we came to government, unemployment was 5.7%. Today it’s 5.3%. We have a record number of Australians in jobs. We have just produced the first current account surplus since 1975 … the budget is back in balance, already delivered, for the first time in 11 years. And we’re going to deliver a surplus. That means paying down Labor’s debt. Right now we have an interest bill of around $19 billion a year …”

 “So what we need to do is build the resilience of the Australian economy and face those domestic and global economic headwinds that all countries are facing, particularly the trade tensions,” Frydenberg lies.

OK, Josh. Perhaps you’d like to take credit for at least half of that debt and rising interest yourself. Hey Big Spender, your government spends like a drunken sailor. Since March, Australia’s gross debt was $543,409,430,000. Double all debt accumulated by every government from Federation to the 2013 election. Just tell the truth.

Global headwinds? Mathias Cormann – who’s never been the same since his arithmetic failed him as Dutton’s numbers man in the Liberals’ last leadership coup – has been wearing out this excuse since he become finance minister. Luckily, he need suffer no longer. He’ll quit politics at the end of this parliamentary session according to Paul Bongiorno. Cormann should go. Ten years ago, the nation was praised for its success during the GFC.

Now we lag the field. Global wealth grew during the past year as the five-year international boom in trade, jobs, investment, corporate profits and government revenue continues, although Alan Austin reports some easing with the new record high adult wealth reaching $70,850 or just 1.2% below last year’s record.

There are no global headwinds. The excuse is invoked whenever jobless figures rise, interest rates are cut, GDP per capita is lower than last year and declining productivity, among other factors, show our local economy stalling.

We’re all at sea. The mutinous dog in the captain’s rig may have seized the helm in last year’s dirty double, double-crossing of Turnbull. But the usurper has no charter; no vision. His first mate can’t read a compass and the crew are frigging in the rigging or sleeping in a cabin far below. No wonder Chief Purser Cormann is about to jump ship.

With Fran’s help, Frydenberg’s farrago of lies includes his party’s whopper that it has a record number of Australians in jobs. Yet Australia’s population growth of 1.7 million people (over 15 years old) during the same period, “created” those jobs. And a record number of deaths, too, not that you hear any boasting on that score.

Even if you take figures at face value, ABC, you could query the quality of those jobs. As in the US, many Australian workers are waiting up to a decade for a pay rise, income inequality is at record levels, working hours are long or unpredictable and penalty rates are being cut or do not exist. Conditions are also rapidly getting worse.

Wage theft is becoming the new normal as every month another corporation is found underpaying its workers.

“For many workers, there is no on-the-job training or chance for career progression, stress related illnesses due to intense work pressures are common and large sections of the workforce live in fear of being sacked without notice or redundancy pay because employment security provisions have been eroded,” reports the ACTU.

Above all, as The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss asks, “… if the Coalition is managing the economy, why did they grow the population rather than create jobs for those who were already unemployed?” We need to explode the pernicious myth of the coalition as good economic managers.  And as Denniss puts it, the economy’s effect on the budget vastly outweighs the effect of any budget on any economy.

Budgets are important but budgets are not central to the management of the economy.

Context matters. Unemployment was indeed 5.7% at the end of the financial crisis or global recession of 2013 but that rate still put us eighth in OECD rankings – as contrasted with our 21st place today at 5.3% as shown in last month’s ABS data. That’s our lowest ranking since records have been kept. But no-one holds Josh to account.

The budget is not back in balance. As Finance Dept data reveals, the deficit at the end of October is around $14.7 billion. A surplus is predicted for next June. Alan Austin spells it out, that’s seven months away.

Above all, as Ross Gittins and others point out, any surplus requires a series of heroic assumptions which include expecting government spending to grow by just 0.1% in real terms – as opposed to 4.9% last financial year.

Then there are the decidedly unheroic calculations and assumptions of this government. Helping create a sacred surplus are cuts to NDIS, although the preferred term is “underspend”. Chief amongst these is the $4.6bn that has not been spent on NDIS, or to use the bureaucrats’ jargon, the “… slower than expected transition of participants into the NDIS and lower utilisation of participants’ individual support packages”.

In other words, our most vulnerable experience delay or denial as more stringent assessments reduce the numbers who qualify for NDIS. Wheelchair Basketball and Tennis, Paralympian Dylan Alcott is disgusted.

“I see the heartbroken families of people who try and try to get funding but can’t, robbing them to be independent, contributing members of society. Fix it.”

Then there’s the timing of receipts. Bringing forward the collection of tobacco excise collections, for example, Shane Wright reminds us, boosts the bottom line by several billions in the new financial year. But wait!

Look over there! In an “explosive allegation”, a Chinese spy ring, exposed by Nine’s 60 Minutes, Sunday, may involve the late Bo “Nick” Zhao, (32) a former luxury car-dealer in leafy Glen Iris in Melbourne’s sleepy eastern suburbs who was offered one million dollars to be a Chinese agent of influence in Australian federal politics.

Or so the self-professed Manchurian candidate, Bo told ASIO a year ago. Is Glen Iris the den of sedition, our ex-pat local sage and dramaturge Barry Humphries, has always warned us about?  Sandy Stone now a suburban guerrilla?

A nation is shocked to learn of the plot to parachute Bo into the Liberal seat of Chisholm. Bo would then be injected like a bacillus into the fibrillating heart of our body politic, our parliament, like Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) in the train to the Finland Station in April 1917. Seriously? More panic from Canning MP, Andrew Hastie.

“I heard that he was a 32-year-old Melbourne resident cultivated by the Chinese Government to run as a Liberal Party candidate,” Chair of Parliamentary Joint Subcommittee on Intelligence and Security Hastie breathlessly tells Channel Nine whose chairman is former Liberal Treasurer and current chair of the Board of Guardians of our $148 billion (that won’t be invested in education, health or welfare) Future Fund, nest-egg, Peter Costello.

Sadly, it turns out Bo’s in jail awaiting trial for fraud in October when Chisholm’s preselection takes place. Gladys Liu, who also boasted she could raise a million dollars for the cause, takes his place. Bo’s bid would be a Chinese Communist Party long-term strategy, helpfully suggests Alex Joske, Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst.

Did Bo know too much? Tragically, he is found dead of a drug overdose in a Mount Waverly motel after tipping off ASIO that Chinese intelligence operatives would give him a million dollars to run for Chisholm. What could possibly have gone wrong? The party would even have given him a hand with the odd fake AEC polling booth or two.

Mandarin language electoral booths in Chisholm and Kooyong and in several other electorates with Chinese speakers instruct unwary voters to unwittingly tick the box to elect the Liberal candidate. These appear to be authorised by the Australian Electoral Commission. Prove they affected one vote say government lawyers.

Cases have been brought against the two candidates by climate campaigner Vanessa Garbett and unsuccessful independent Kooyong candidate Oliver Yates. The fake poll booth case is currently before the full federal court.

Former acting Victorian Liberal party state director, Simon Frost, has testified that signs written in Chinese at polling booths on election day were designed to look like official Australian Electoral Commission signage. Preliminary comments from the bench are not encouraging. At least the spy scandal gets our PM’s attention.

“Deeply disturbing”, Scott Morrison finds the spy claims, he says, while Liberal MP for Canning, first talent-spotted by Greg Sheridan, and an Abbott, captain’s pick, former SAS Captain, Andrew Hastie, cranks up the hysteria.

A state-sponsored attempt to infiltrate our Parliament using an Australian citizen and basically run them as an agent of foreign influence in our democratic system,” cries Andrew “handy Andy” Hastie, who chairs the Australian Parliament’s oxymoron – its intelligence and security committee.

It seems to give Hastie a lot of prominence if not power.

Incredibly, another self-proclaimed Chinese spy, Wang Liqiang, who also comes to Hastie’s attention, is the star of a 60 Minutes’ show when he comes forward with sensational allegations. Wang claims he worked as a secret Chinese operative for five years. Worse, Beijing has directed overseas assassinations, including on Australian soil.

Yet barely a week passes before our spooks conclude the self-proclaimed Chinese spy is not a highly trained intelligence operative dispatched by Beijing to wreak havoc on China’s enemies. At most, they suggest, he may be a bit player on the fringes of the espionage community. But what a star. Let’s hope he’s awarded asylum.

“We develop friendly co-operation with Australia and other countries based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” a foreign ministry spokesman says. “We have not interfered and are never interested in interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs.”

That settles that, then. Meanwhile, it seems Wang may have some charges to face should he return to China. The Chinese Embassy insists he is merely a “self-proclaimed intelligence agent” and a convicted fraudster who was sentenced to one year and three months in prison, with a suspended sentence of a year and a half.

The embassy cites a Shanghai police statement of an investigation into Mr Wang they opened in April, after he allegedly cheated 4.6 million yuan ($960,000), in a “fake investment project”, involving car imports in February.

Chinese spies is the latest episode of Morrison’s Police State which stars our fearless anti-hero the PM as daggy-Dad, a NSW copper’s son, making yet another dud judgement call. Rather than get his Minister for Energy, Emissions, water-rorts and Round-Up, Angus Taylor, to explain who cooked up the dodgy document Taylor used to falsely impugn Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore – he rings Mick’s mobile. Is Mick’s number on Scott’s speed dial?

So our PM phones a friend; his former neighbour and bin brother, top cop, Mick Fuller. Mick’s NSW Police Commissioner, a passionate advocate of strip-searching minors, the separation of powers and augmenting the rule of law with a little bit of fear.

Young people should have a “little bit of fear” of police he tells the fear-mongering Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph. It’s a view which former AFP chief Mick Palmer does not share. He says it is frankly frightening.

Morrison tells parliament that Strike Force Garrad (SFG) won’t be going anywhere. He implies Mick’s told him.

SFG is the NSW police investigation of Gus Taylor’s use of doctored documents to ridicule Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore for declaring a state of climate emergency over some forged travel figures, Gus swears were downloaded from Sydney City Council’s website, a claim contradicted by the council’s website metadata.

Doubtless, no crime will be found to have been committed but no-one will believe Morrison hasn’t leaned on Fuller to back off.

Happily, our spooks are up to snuff. The Australian even suggests that Morrison could learn from their approach. Don’t turn crisis into catastrophe.  Spymaster, ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess looms up late Sunday night to assure all loyal Australians that not only is ASIO aware of the matters but is “actively investigating them“.

A former Telstra information security chief, Mike’s a top bloke says Peter Dutton. Last August Mike “moved across” to head ASIO after heading the Australian Signals Directorate, (ASD). He was on deck to News Corp Annika Smethurst whose scoop, April last year busted an ASD plan to spy on all Australians. Mike says it’s bollocks.

Mike Burgess and two departmental heads, (always better than one) issued a rare public statement disputing the report. Later Smethurst’s home was raided by the Australian Federal Police, reports Michelle Grattan, looking for anything which would lead them to her source.

Since then, there’s been a lot of fuss and bother about the role of the free press, a debate in which News Corp is handicapped by the baggage of having urged Coalition governments to increase state powers to spy on us all.

News of the Chinese plot is enough to put a nation off its Uncle Toby’s Weeties, Monday morning and quite upstages Evangelical Stuart Robert’s frantic attempts to hose down the government’s dumpster fire which erupts when, as it knew would happen, its Robodebt assessment or extortion of the poor is ruled illegal Wednesday by the Federal Court. The Morrison government may have to repay hundreds of millions of dollars.

While MSM faithfully report that it’s a shocker of a week for Morrison, it is, in fact, a very positive week for the Australian worker. Bill Shorten also is in top form. He raises the following matter in parliament. He asks

“Given that the government has now suspended robodebt after three years of operation, is it because the Coalition government at the time of creating it either, a) didn’t seek legal advice, or b) had inaccurate legal advice or c) received legal advice but just didn’t think that Australians would notice the government unjustly enriching itself at the expense of the most vulnerable in Australian society.”

It’s a bad week for Scott Morrison chorus Nine Newspapers following News Corp’s lead. But it’s far from that. It’s a good week or at least a hopeful week for ordinary Australians. What is bad is that Ensuring Integrity and repeal of Medevac are not remotely necessary.

Worse, Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson note the hypocrisy, the double standard applied to workers and Westpac bankers who have just been called out by AUSTRAC on twenty-three million counts of money-laundering.

“The Prime Minister himself came out and said ‘it’s not up to us to deal with it, it’s up to the board to deal with the banks’ – but that’s not good enough,” senator Hanson says.

In the end, the Morrison government’s just not good enough, Pauline Hanson nails it. Or big enough.

One bill before the senate extends the government’s campaign to cripple unions; reduce further the power of workers to organise and exercise industrial action while the other is more a fit of pique – a sure sign that petty political point-scoring matters more than the human rights of asylum-seekers – or our compassion, humanity – or our doctors’ Hippocratic oath. Morrison’s government hates any law that Labor may have had a hand in.

Finally, there’s the robodebt debacle. The government has been happy to connive at extortion but even when called on it’s illegal averaging to raise a debt, all its Government Services Minister Stuart Robert can offer is;

“This government does not apologise -” Yet apologise it must. And fitting restitution must soon follow. No government can treat its people with such contempt; nor in reversing the onus of proof put itself above the law.

As for Yellow Peril 2.0, its spy drama, cooler, wiser heads must prevail. Andrew Hastie’s Sinophobia has all the hallmarks of an orchestrated diversion, designed to distract us from a government in deep trouble.

This week Scott Morrison reveals he understands neither the separation of powers nor the rule of law in our democracy; he acts the can-do PM; markets himself as a man of action. Yet this does not give him permission to ring the NSW Commissioner of Police in the midst of a parliamentary sitting to seek details of an investigation it is not his business to ask nor the Commissioner’s business to tell. Both parties are now irrevocably impugned.

Viewed in conjunction with his eagerness to silence dissent and his government’s passage of at least eighty laws increasing the powers of the state to spy on its citizens, his behaviour is not only entirely inappropriate it is truly alarming. The road toward a police state is paved with such incursions into liberty, democracy and justice.

Just as the incessant repetition of party propaganda and lies mask a grave unwillingness to consult others, let alone fairly and effectively manage our nation’s economy and resources whilst elevating illusion over truth.

Yet this tyranny is not inevitable. Armed with knowledge we can resist. We must. Our democracy depends upon it.

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Prospects of Israel’s Return to the Political Centre

By Denis Bright

Prospects of Israel’s Return to the Political Centre Under a Blue White Coalition Government Headed by Benny Gantz

Despite the strong showing by Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White Party, conventional opinion in Israel just prior to polling day still favoured a continuing coalition between Likud and the far-right religious parties with Benjamin Netanyahu staying on as Prime Minister. 

Predictions of a continuing Likud vote were surprising as Netanyahu faces a final pre-indictment hearing on three cases of corruption on 2 October. Netanyahu’s capacity for survival is well summarised by Haaretz Online (17 September 2019):

Should Netanyahu triumph in his quest to put together a 61-member Knesset majority, he is believed to be planning to use his power to obtain immunity from prosecution from the Knesset and passing legislation to prevent the High Court of Justice from removing that immunity. 

Despite numerous reports to this effect – and public statements from political parties supporting Netanyahu vowing to back immunity legislation – the Prime Minister’s Office has repeatedly denied that any such plans are in place, calling it a “false media spin.” 

As tentative results from the Israel’s proportional voting system were tallied, Benjamin Netanyahu still short of the 61 seats in the Knesset needed to form a working majority. Haaretz Online (17 September 2019) distributed the tentative results an hour after polling booths closed:

While the far-right parties in any potential coalition between Likud retained their share of the vote for Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Yamina largely retained their share of the national vote, Otzma Yehudit (Strength for Israel) again failed to gain a threshold vote of 3.25 per cent needed to achieve representation in the Knesset with its commitment to a hardline messianic future for the state of Israel.

Any change of government in Israel will be welcome news to the Arab community which increased its presence in the Knesset by two seats to twelve representatives.

This leaves the Blue and White Party of Benny Gantz a chance to negotiate a coalition deal from his diverse support base which Haaretz Online refers to as Kachol Lavan as explained by the Israel Policy Forum: 

Kachol Lavan

Leader: Benny Gantz
Current Seats: N/A (new party)
Government/Opposition in Last Knesset: N/A (new party)
Supports/Opposes Two-State Solution: Supports

Kachol Lavan is a new party built from a merger between two centrist parties, Benny Gantz’s Hosen Leyisrael and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid. Gantz retains the number one spot on the list, while he and Lapid share a rotation agreement in which the Yesh Atid leader will take over the premiership after two-and-a-half years if Kachol Lavan is selected to lead a government after elections.

The possibility of a change in Israeli leadership resides mainly from a loss of six seats for Likud from 38 seats to 32 seats in the tentative results. Small gains were made by Yisrael  Beiteinu which represents the Russian communities in Israel and the left-leaning Democratic Union with its Green support base. Likud was just short of a working majority in the Knesset as a result of Israel’s national elections, just five months ago:

Should the new centre coalition make it into majority government in Israel, the incoming government will inherit a strong but slowing economy from a Likud Government. However, Likud is tainted by corruption, militarism and plans for new settler projects in the Jordan Valley and on the East Bank near Jerusalem.

With or without Netanyahu, Likud presides over a strong economy with a sound if softening economic growth rate expressed in percentage terms from Trading Economics:

Surprisingly, for a centre-right country which is eulogized by conservatives worldwide, Israel has a strong government sector which drives new military spending and economic development:

Since 2014, Israel has moved from traditional forms of government intervention to the formation of a Citizens’ Fund in partnership with the Bank of Israel to assist with economic diversification. This process commenced long before the establishment of the Citizens’ Fund as noted by EE Times Online in 2001:  

Twenty years ago, oranges were Israel’s main export. The small Middle Eastern country still helps feed the global economy, but now wireless and optical communications technology are also bearing fruit.

Statistics cited by government agencies depict an amazing transformation in the past two decades, from a nation dependent on agriculture and diamond exports to a thriving economy and a hotbed of high-tech research.

“Israel used to be known as the land of milk and honey. Now it’s known as the land of start-ups,” said Eli Keren general manager of Sun Microsystems Israel Ltd. in Herzliyya. “It’s a Garden of Eden for venture capitalists.”

Investors-lured by the high concentration of scientists and engineers-last year sank some $11.4 billion into Israel’s industry, compared with $537 million in 1992. Technology venture capital investment alone grew to just over $3 billion in 2000, from $1 billion in 1999, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT), Jerusalem.

A slump in the electronics sector brought a sharp drop in foreign investment on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in February, but global economic uncertainty and growing violence in both the West Bank and Gaza have done little to dampen enthusiasm about Israel’s future as a major centre for technology development.

Israel now has a vast directory of electronics companies which are available for perusal by interested readers.

Investment in defence electronics is a major branch of Israeli technology. The list of firms involved in military technology is considerable.

Israeli military technology extends to the acquisition of nuclear weapons and other WMDs. These include a new generation of submarine-launched nuclear missiles on both the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean Fleets as well as land-based nuclear field weapons. Sharing of this nuclear weapons technology commenced prior to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) of 1993. Israel has not ratified the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972. NATO ally Egypt is a non-signatory to the Biological Weapons Convention.

Surprisingly, Australia’s DFAT boasts of its defence ties with Israel when a gentle diplomatic nudge to the incoming Israeli government to ratify all international agreements against WMDs might be more appropriate: 

Australia continues to broaden bilateral cooperation with Israel. In recent years, there has been significantly increased engagement across a range of sectors, including innovation, security and defence.

Austrade established one of its five innovation Landing Pads in Tel Aviv in 2016 as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda. As a bridge between the Australian and Israeli innovation ecosystems, the Landing Pad offers early-stage Australian start-ups a platform to build links with local and multinational business partners in Israel. In February 2017, Australia and Israel signed a Technological Innovation Cooperation Agreement. The Agreement includes a bilateral funding program to enable cooperation between Australian and Israeli companies.

Since 2017, Australia and Israel have expanded cooperation on national security, defence and cybersecurity. Defence officials began annual strategic talks in 2018 and in early 2019, Australia appointed a resident Defence Attaché to the Embassy in Tel Aviv. Leveraging Australia and Israel’s respective areas of expertise, cooperation on national security, continues to develop, including on aviation security with Home Affairs as the lead Australian agency. In January 2019, following a series of reciprocal visits and dialogue, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cybersecurity cooperation.  

Expanded economic engagement has been underpinned by the conclusion of several bilateral agreements including a Double Taxation Agreement in March 2019, an Air Services Agreement in February 2017, and a Working Holiday Agreement in June 2016, and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on defence industry cooperation in October 2017. The opening in 2019 of an Australian Trade and Defence Office in West Jerusalem will facilitate trade, investment and defence industry partnerships.

Australia’s acquisition of Israeli defence technology is a badge of honour for Australian defence forces as noted by ABC News Online

The kill chain: Australia’s drone war

Updated 27 Jun 2012, 8:23am

Let’s hope that Australia and other countries linked to NATO can move on from that love affair with the Netanyahu Era when everyone is assured by further negotiations on the character of the next Israeli government.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.

 

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Morrison’s monumental dysfunctional Pacific “family” failure

No matter how much money you put on the table it doesn’t give you the excuse not to do the right thing, which is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coalmines.”  (Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, 14 August 2019).

“Shove a sock down the throat of Jacinda Ardern” – urges Alan Bedford Jones, 2GB Sydney’s sock-shock jock, another former, failed, Liberal Party candidate and inveterate misogynist,Thursday, as New Zealand’s PM supports Pacific Islanders’ global warming concerns, endorsing the resolutions of all but one of the eighteen countries and territories of this week’s 50th Pacific Islands Forum, (PIF) meeting in Tuvalu’s capital, Funafuti.

Left on its own, promoting global warming is Australia. Ms Ardern says, diplomatically, that our land down-under can answer to the Pacific for itself. New Zealand, or Aotearoa, as its Maori people named it, commonly translated as land of the long white cloud, or, continuously clear light is doing what it can to limit its carbon emissions to 1.5C.

Ms Ardern expects all nations to make a similar commitment but will not lecture others.

Rabid climate change denier Jones turns puce. He rants; spits foam at the microphone. Does ScoMo’s office tell Jones to put the boot in? For Jones and his audience – and, indeed, for much of Morrison’s government, global warming, is a hoax. And an aberration, a perversion of reason. The notion is an unnatural hoax, as is the monstrous regiment of women who dare to demand their fair share of political power from blokes.

“Here she is preaching on global warming and saying that we’ve got to do something about climate change,” Jones harangues listeners from his bully pulpit. His signature outbursts of outrage, his demonising and his scapegoating are his own take on Orwell’s two-minute hate. Jones down low may be heard playing daily in all the best dementia wards in hospitals all over Sydney. Thursday, Jones goes off like a frog in a sock.

Preaching? It’s precisely what the Kiwi PM takes pains to avoid, but Jones rarely lets fact spoil his argument.

New Zealand has cows that burp and fart, he sneers, in a rare, brief, departure into scientific truth.

Jones role has little to do with reporting and even less with respecting fact. In the 1990 cash for comment scandal, where he and John Laws were found to have accepted money from a slew of corporations, QANTA, Optus, Foxtel, Mirvac and big banks, the jocks’ defence was that they were not employed as journalists, but as “entertainers” and thus had no duty of disclosure or of journalistic integrity. Yet Jones hopes the PM is briefed,

“I just wonder whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat.”

Outraged by Ardern’s audacity – as much as the fact that she’s a Jezebel – a woman brazenly asserting authority, independence and leadership, Jones works up a lather. Arden’s an impudent hypocrite, he squawks. Australia act responsibly or answer to the Pacific on policy? Accountability is heresy in ScoMo’s government. Perhaps Jones hopes that his “sock it to her” will be an Aussie form of “send her back”.

Sending Kiwis home, if Peter Dutton doesn’t like the look of them, is at least one Morrison government policy that’s coherent. Repatriation on “character” grounds saw a thousand forcible deportations between 2016-2018. Under Morrison as Immigration Minister in 2014, the policy was expanded to include all those Kiwi-born residents who’d been sentenced to twelve months or more in prison.

Many of those deported under the “character test” have no family or friends in New Zealand; have extensive family ties in Australia and have spent very little time in New Zealand, having arrived in Australia as children.

It’s another source of friction between Australia, its major trading partner, despite China (NZ$15.3bn) now having eclipsed Australia (NZ$13.9bn) as New Zealand’s biggest export market.

Friday, Jones’ sock-jock mockery continues. “The parrot” ridicules one of New Zealand’s most popular and effective Prime Ministers; alleging Ms Ardern is “a clown” and a “joke” for “preaching about climate change”, claiming, falsely, that New Zealand’s carbon dioxide has increased per capita more than Australia’s since 1990.

The Parrot’s problems with women in power, rival those of the Liberal Party itself. Worrying aloud in 2012 about our Pacific policy and how “women were wrecking the joint” during Gillard’s highly successful minority government, Jones said he was “putting Julia Gillard into a chaff bag and hoisting her into the Tasman Sea”.

Gillard’s government invested $320 million in promoting Pacific Island women’s role in business and politics.

“She said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating,” he shrieked in utter disbelief to listeners during an on-air hate update from Barnaby Joyce about the sale of Cubbie Station to a Chinese-led consortium.

“$320 million could have bought the 93,000 hectare Cubbie Station and its water rights, he reckoned. Kept it in Australian hands. There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people.”

“Women are destroying the joint – Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly.”

Gillard’s father John a former psychiatric nurse who passed away at 83, “died of shame”, he added in 2012, “To think that he has a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament.”

Also socking it to Jacinda, Jones is joined in combat by another Liberal supporter and climate denialist, One Nation’s resident empiricist, Malcolm Roberts, who knows how much Kiwis love sheep jokes.

“New Zealand has over 60 million sheep. Sheep produce about 30 litres of methane a day. If Ardern was serious about addressing ‘climate change’ shouldn’t she start by culling the entire sheep population of NZ? Or is she just climate gesturing?”

Roberts is wrong in several respects as an AAP fact check demonstrates. He can’t count sheep. New Zealand’s official data agency, Stats NZ, reports the most recent farm census, conducted in 2017, records 27.5 million sheep in the country. A 2018 provisional update reports a drop to 27.3 million.

Nor are sheep the major culprits. New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2017, released in April 2019, shows sheep produced 12.7 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Dairy cattle accounted for 22.5 per cent, while electricity generation created 4.4 per cent.

Above all, this year, New Zealand introduced a bill to reduce emissions of methane by animals to 10 per cent below 2017 levels by 2030, and between 24 and 47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050.

Fellow climate science denier, Mick-Mack, as Coach ScoMo calls our deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, must grab a headline to delay being deposed by Barnaby Joyce. Mick-Mack chimes in with a killer argument. Lenore Taylor says on ABC Insiders Sunday, that he couldn’t be more “offensive or paternalistic” if he tried. Itinerant Pacific Islander fruit-pickers, he says, should thank their lucky Aussie stars.

“They will continue to survive,” the part-time Elvis impersonator says in his most tone-deaf, judgemental manner. “There’s no question they’ll continue to survive and they’ll continue to survive on large aid assistance from Australia. They’ll continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit.”

And our tomatoes – for eight dollars an hour, as reported in the recent settlement of a case on behalf of fifty workers from Vanuatu, who suffered bleeding from the nose and ears after exposure to chemicals at a farm near Shepparton under the government’s seasonal worker programme.

Brisbane based Agri Labour Australia refuses to admit liability, even after being taken to court and even after agreeing to an undisclosed financial settlement. The Fair Work Ombudsman takes separate legal action. This results in nineteen workers being compensated $50,283 for wage theft – a crime rife in our migrant workforce be it in horticulture or in hospitality.  No records were kept of the workers’ labour over six months.

Seasonal worker and father of six ,Silas Aru, worked for six months, yet was paid a mere $150 in total in farms across Queensland – also as part of a government seasonal workers’ or slave labour scheme. Federal Circuit Court Justice, Michael Jarratt​ struggled to imagine a “more egregious” case of worker exploitation.

Exploited to the point of criminal neglect or abuse, men and women from the Pacific Islands are often the slaves in our nation’s overworked, underpaid, casual or part-time workforce. Mick-Mack knows how to pick ’em. Rip off the vulnerable. Trick them. Rob them blind. Then remind them what a favour you are doing them.

As the bullying of the Pacific Island leaders rapidly turns into an unmitigated disaster, something must be done. ScoMo’s staff work long and hard to orchestrate a shit-storm in response. It’s specialised work. Howard allegedly had an operative in his office solely working on “Alan Jones issues” throughout his term in office, former 2UE Jones colleague and big critic Mike Carlton tells The Saturday Paper’s Martin McKenzie-Murray.

Jones’s confected outrage is a tactical dead cat thrown on the table; distracting media from ScoMo & Co’s default policy of bullying and duplicity. Con-man Morrison promises $500 million over five years for “climate and disaster resilience” but it’s an accounting trick; a shonky repackaging of existing aid. No-one falls for it.

Pacific leaders are insulted, alienated by Morrison’s attempt to con them with a fake bribe. Our PM adds injury to insult by adding a bit of emotional blackmail.  Fijian PM, Frank Bainimarama explains.

“The PM … apparently [backed] into a corner by the leaders, came up with how much money Australia have been giving to the Pacific.” He said: “I want that stated. I want that on the record.’ Very insulting.”

Bainimarama is ropeable. By Saturday, he is all over the media after phoning Guardian Australia. ScoMo’s “condescending” diplomacy is as much of a massive fail as his government’s energy or environment policy or overseas aid abroad vacuums. The Fijian PM is clear that by alienating and insulting Pacific Islanders, ScoMo is helping drive the leaders into the arms of the Chinese. In other words, Morrison’s mission is a total failure.

Kick Australia out of the PIF, calls Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati, and veteran advocate for nations battling rising sea-levels caused by global warming. Australia’s membership of the Pacific Island Forum should be “urgently reviewed” for possible sanctions or suspension over the Morrison government’s pro-coal stance, he says. There’s a precedent. Fiji was barred until recently in a move to censure its departure from democracy.

(PIF) … is supposed to be about the well-being of the members,” Tong tells The Sun-Herald and Sunday Age“If one country causes harm to other nations, such as by fuelling climate change, “there should be sanctions”.

“Pacific people see through this facade. We won’t solve the climate crisis by just adapting to it – we solve it by mitigating it, reducing emissions, investing and transitioning to renewables, not shirking our moral duty to fight,” Greenpeace’s Head of Pacific Joseph Moeono-Kolio says. But our federal government just doesn’t get it.

ScoMo started badly by opting for antagonism and insult. Sending junior minister, coal lobby shill, Alex Hawke on ahead to set up talks did not go over well. Hawke recycles denialist garbage. Human influence on global warming is “overblown” he reckons, while in Tuvalu, he peddles the lie that our economy depends on coal.

In reality, the Morrison government’s dance to the tune of the coal barons costs us a fortune. Avoiding climate change reduces our GDP, by $130 billion a year, reports The Australia Institute, citing calculations by government consultant, Brian Fisher. Yet in the reporting of the Forum, our media helpfully relay the government’s re-framing of our global warming crisis into a choice between jobs or a few more emissions.

We are “family” insists Great White Bwana Morrison. A dysfunctional family where a crafty Father Morrison tells the younger fry lies. The Greens Adam Bandt puts his finger on it. Our wretched carry-over Kyoto credits are yet another shonky accounting trick to allow ScoMo to continue his hollow boast that “we’ll meet and beat” our Paris emissions reduction targets. The stunt certainly does not impress beleaguered Pacific leaders.

“At the moment we are not on track to meet the Paris targets. No one in the world is. We are on track to exceed 3.5 degrees of global warming, which will be a catastrophe. The Pacific Island leaders know this.”

Exploiting “a pollution loophole” is how The Australia Institute (TAI) describes Australia’s bad faith. The “pollution loophole” amounts to about eight years of fossil-fuel emissions from the Pacific and New Zealand combined, calculates, TAI, in a research paper it helpfully makes available to leaders before the Forum. The paper pulls no punches from its title onward: How Australia is robbing the Pacific of its climate change efforts.

Worse, it spells out how Islanders are paying for our denialism. Australia intends to use 367 Mt of carbon credits to avoid the majority of emission reductions pledged under its Paris Agreement target. Meanwhile, the entire annual emissions from the Pacific Islands Forum members, excluding Australia, is only about 45 Mt.

The bad faith continues. ScoMo & Co coerce Island leaders into watering down the text of their draft declaration. Or so it seems, unless you are tuned to Radio New Zealand. Local reports have it that after twelve hours, the PIF comes up with a hollow text that mimics the Coalition’s own climate change denialism.

Pacific leaders released a draft declaration in Tuvalu, Tuesday, calling for “an immediate global ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants and coalmines” and for all countries “to rapidly phase out their use of coal in the power sector”. It echoes the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call last May.

All references to coal go from the forum communique and climate change statement. Expunged also, are any aims to limit warming to less than 1.5C or any commitment to a plan for net zero emissions by 2050.

Naturally, the Pacific leaders have the nous to issue their own separate declaration with targets which echo its draft statement and which follow the lead of the United Nations, sadly, a body increasingly ignored – if not ridiculed – by our own government and that of its great and powerful friend the US, among a host of others.

By Saturday, Morrison’s stunt with grateful fruit-picker and sock back-up is unravelling badly. Promising to be “a good friend, partner and brother of Pacific Island countries” is China’s special envoy to the Pacific, ambassador Wang Xuefeng, who is quick to exploit the rift between Australia and its Pacific neighbours.

Morrison insists the Forum is a “family gathering” and that “when families come together they talk about the stuff that matters, that’s most important to them. Over the next few days that’s exactly what we’ll do.” It’s ScoMo code, Newspeak for insulting, alienating and bullying the leaders; trashing their hopes and aspirations.

Let the Pacific Islanders worry about rising sea levels and increasing salinity which is rapidly making their homes uninhabitable. In Australia, government energy policy is dictated by a powerful coal lobby – with powerful allies in the media. The PM who brings a lump of coal into parliament also has an assistant recruited from Peabody Coal and has his fossil-fuel lobby and a daft hard right with the upper hand in mind all week.

The Prime Minister’s performance at the Pacific Islands Forum is a monumental failure. Even if his bullying, his intransigence, his inhumanity and chicanery do impress a few one-eyed partisans at home it has dealt irreparable damage to our goodwill in the Pacific, which has not really recovered since the Abbott government  cut $11bn from overseas aid in 2015, a cut which the budgie-smuggler insisted was “modest”.

Fears that China will exploit Australia’s neglectful – if not abusive – relationship with its Pacific neighbours are aired all week but the Morrison government isn’t listening. It does everything in its power to offend and alienate Pacific leaders as it clings to its ideological fixation with supporting a moribund coal industry at home.

Above all, enlisting or inspiring the support of Alan Jones, aka The Parrot, has helped the Morrison government shine a light on the unreason, the bullying, the racism and the misogyny which lie at its heart.

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A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 2)

By Dr George Venturini  

In October 2012 a former senior royal aide revealed that notorious paedophile Jimmy Savile (actually Sir James Wilson Vincent Savile OBE since 2006), who was said to have acted as a kind of marriage counsellor between Prince Charles and Diana, was a cause for “concern and suspicion” at ‘The Palace’. Mr. Dickie Arbiter had handled media relations for the Prince and Princess of Wales while press spokesman for the Queen between 1988 and 2000.

Savile was known to have visited Prince Charles’s official London residence several times in the late 1980s when he was acting as a kind of marriage counsellor between Charles and Princess Diana. A spokesman for the Prince of Wales confirmed that the Charles and Savile formed a relationship in the late 1970s after coming together through their work with wheelchair sports charities. Charles led tributes to Savile when he died in 2011.

“He would walk into the office and do the rounds of the young ladies taking their hands and rubbing his lips all the way up their arms if they were wearing short sleeves.” Arbiter said of Savile. “If it was summer [and their arms were bare] his bottom lip would curl out and he would run it up their arms. This was at St James’s Palace. The women were in their mid to late 20s doing typing and secretarial work.”

Arbiter did not raise his concerns formally and there is no suggestion Savile committed any crimes while on ‘Royal premises’ or when he was with Prince Charles on numerous occasions from the 1970s onwards. But the concern over his behaviour expressed by a senior aide will raise questions over how Savile, who was under investigation in relation to child abuse involving 300 potential victims, managed to develop such a long-standing relationship with the heir to the throne.

Asked about Savile’s behaviour with the royal assistants or whether Prince Charles had taken any action to find out if anyone in his family or staff might have suffered any abuse or have any information relating to the criminal investigation into Savile’s alleged paedophilia, a spokesman for the Prince said: “We have no record of anyone making a complaint.”

“The Prince first met Savile through their shared interest in supporting disability charities [the Prince became patron of the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation in the late 1970s] and it was primarily because of this connection that they maintained a relationship in the years that followed,” the spokesman said.

Mr. Arbiter said that he thought the women might have thought Savile’s greeting was “rather funny”, but he said it was a cause for concern and he struggled to understand why Savile was granted such access to the ‘Royal Family’.

“I looked at him as a court jester and told him so,” said Arbiter. “I remember calling him an old reprobate and he said ‘not so much of the old’.”

Concern about Savile’s behaviour at ‘The Palace’ emerged as Sir Roger Jones, former chairman of the B.B.C.’s corporate charity Children In Need, said he had been so uncomfortable about Savile that he did not allow him to have any association with the cause. Jones, a B.B.C. governor from 1997 to 2002, said that he had “no evidence” that Savile was up to anything but “we all recognised he was a pretty creepy sort of character.”

“When I was with Children In Need, we took the decision that we did not want him anywhere near to the charity.” he told the B.B.C.

Prince Charles met Savile on numerous occasions. In 1999 he accepted an invitation to a private meal at Savile’s Glencoe home which was later in 2012 daubed with graffiti reading “Jimmy the beast.” Savile asked three local women to dress up in pinafores emblazoned with the letters H.R.H. and Charles subsequently sent the television presenter a Christmas card with the note: “Jimmy, with affectionate greetings from Charles. Give my love to your ladies in Scotland.”

Charles reportedly sent him a box of cigars and a pair of gold cuff-links on his 80th birthday with a note which read: “Nobody will ever know what you have done for this country Jimmy. This is to go some way in thanking you for that.”

Savile used to boast of his royal connections, made sure to be photographed with Charles on numerous occasions and ingratiated himself once telling the press that the Prince was “the nicest man you will ever meet. Royalty are surrounded by people who don’t know how to deal with it,” Savile said in an interview. “I have a freshness of approach which they obviously find to their liking. I think I get invited because I have a natural, good fun way of going on and we have a laugh. They don’t get too many laughs.”

The day after the meal in Glencoe Savile persuaded Charles to join him for a photo opportunity at his local post office where he went to pick up his pension money.

“The post office photo opportunity was definitely [down to] him [Savile],” said Ms. Coleen Harris, Prince Charles’s press secretary. “You always think that other people are getting more out of these things [than the prince] but on the whole it is for a good reason, for the charities and it is a positive thing.” She added: “Personally I always thought he was slightly eccentric, but beyond that I had no idea. He was a slightly odd bloke, but not in a cruel way.”

Mr. Arbiter said that despite Savile’s unusual behaviour with the royal administrative staff there was no evidence of any other cause for suspicion.

“There was a limit to what he could get away with in the royal household,” he said.

He also said ‘The Palace’ advisers felt the Prince’s charities might benefit from a connection with Savile, at the time one of the country’s most famous TV stars.

Perhaps Savile’s most unlikely role was that of personal counsel to Prince Charles in the late 1980s at a time when the ‘Royal Family’ was in deep trouble. The marriages of Charles and Diana and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson were falling apart. Around new year 1990 Charles asked Savile to help the Duchess of York with what Savile later said was keeping her profile down.

Princess Diana was recorded telling her friend James Gilbey on the so-called “squidgygate tape”: “Jimmy Savile rang me up yesterday, and he said: ‘I’m just ringing up, my girl, to tell you that His Nibs [Prince Charles] has asked me to come and help out the redhead [the Duchess of York], and I’m just letting you know, so that you don’t find out through her or him; and I hope it’s all right by you.’ ” (R. Booth, ‘Jimmy Savile caused concern with behaviour on visits to Prince Charles’, 30 October 2012, theguardian.com).

Sometime in the 1980s Prince Charles met the Anglican priest Peter Ball. They remained good friends since, and Ball, who was boasting of his powerful friends, claimed to be a confidant of the heir to the throne.

In time Ball became Bishop of Gloucester, which is the district covering Prince Charles’ private estate Highgrove.

In July 2018, at an inquiry into Ball’s paedophile activities, Prince Charles appeared and submitted a letter – amongst others – which was read at the inquiry in July 2018, and in which Charles wrote of his “deep personal regret” at being “misled” by Ball.

The inquiry was investigating the actions of the Church of England after an earlier inquiry in 2017 found senior church figures covered-up the abuse allegations against the paedophile Ball, who was gaoled in 2015 after finally being convicted of abusing 18 teenagers and men over a 30-year period. Now aged in his late 80s, he is out on parole.

The inquiry was read extracts from a number of letters exchanged between Ball and Prince Charles when abuse allegations began to surface, including one in 1997 where Charles wrote of a victim: “I’ll see this horrid man off if he tries anything.”

Two years earlier, in 1995, Prince Charles wrote to Ball: “I wish I could do more. I feel so desperately strong about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you.” This letter came despite Ball having accepted a police caution for gross indecency.

In November 1993, after a police investigation ended in the caution and his resignation, Ball wrote to Prince Charles: “Life continues to be pretty nasty for me, for it seems that my accusers still want to continue their malicious campaign. Luckily, they are beginning to show some of their fraudulent plans.”

A letter from Prince Charles, dated 16 February 1995, said: “I wish I could do more. I feel so desperately strongly about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you and the way you have been treated.”

He went on to say it was “appalling” that the archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, had “gone back on what he told me before Xmas that he was hoping to restore you to some form of ministry in the church. I suspect you are absolutely right – it is due to fear of the media … If it is any consolation, the archbishop has written me a letter (between you and me) in which it is also clear that he is frightened of the press – what he calls ‘public perception’, which in fact, [is] perception of events and characters based entirely on lies, invention, speculation and sensation.”

In 1996 Prince Charles referred to efforts by the Duchy of Cornwall to buy a house that could be rented by Ball and his identical twin, Michael, also a bishop.

He wrote: “I pray the Duchy will be able to find something suitable for you both in due course, but it may take a little time to locate it! I long to see you both settled somewhere that suits you and gives you peace and tranquillity – and not too far from here so you can come over more easily.”

In March 1997 Prince Charles wrote to Ball: “I can’t bear it that the frightful, terrifying man is on the loose again and doing his worst.” He added: “I’ll see off this horrid man if he tries anything again.”

In his submission to the inquiry, Charles said that he was “unable to shed any light on references … to a ‘horrid man’ or a ‘frightful and terrifying man’ ” after a gap of more than 20 years. However, he suspected it referred to people trying to discredit Ball.

Prince Charles added that the letter to Ball needed to be read “in the context of my understanding at that time, namely that Peter Ball had been falsely accused of a single offence (the nature of which was unknown to me) … Events later demonstrated beyond any doubt, to my deep regret, that I, along with many others, had been misled.”

Charles was asked to submit a witness statement to the inquiry covering his friendship and correspondence with Ball. After protracted discussions between legal teams representing the prince and the inquiry, he submitted a letter.

In it he said he first became aware of Ball during the 1980s after hearing him preach, and found him to be “an interesting and engaging person.” From 1993 – the year Ball was cautioned by police – he invited Ball to give holy communion at the prince’s home “from time to time.”

The pair corresponded, although contact was “normally instigated and driven” by Ball. The bishop told the Prince that he had been “involved in some form of ‘indiscretion’ which prompted his resignation.” Ball suggested that the complaint came from a single individual who bore a grudge.

According to Prince Charles, the “true context and details” of the complaint did not come to his attention until Ball’s trial and conviction in 2015. “As context, it seems important to say that in the 1980s and 1990s there was a presumption that people such as bishops could be taken at their word and, as a result of the high office they held, were worthy of trust and confidence … At the time there was a presumption on my part of good faith.”

Prince Charles said that he was not aware of the “significance or impact” of the police caution and was “not aware until recently that a caution in fact carries an acceptance of guilt.”

He occasionally sent the Ball brothers “small gifts of money” as well as arranging for a house to be purchased by the Duchy of Cornwall which was rented by the Balls between 1997 and 2011.

The letter said: “At no stage did I ever seek to influence the outcome of either the police investigations into Peter Ball and nor did I instruct or encourage my staff to do so.”

He said he had ceased contact with Ball once he was convicted in 2015. “It remains a source of deep personal regret that I was one of many who were deceived over a long period of time about the true nature of Mr Ball’s activities.”

Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer representing a number of Ball’s victims, said the Prince’s explanation that he was not aware of the meaning of a caution left his clients “dissatisfied”.

He said: “Prince Charles had access to the best legal advice that money can buy and, as a man in his position, a particular responsibility to check the facts. It is difficult to see his failure to do so as anything other than wilful blindness. His evidence, together with that of Lord Carey, the then archbishop of Canterbury, and other establishment figures who have given evidence this week, will do little to dissuade survivors from the conclusion that the British establishment aided and protected Ball and even now have failed to give a transparent account of their actions.” (H. Sherwood, ‘Prince Charles kept in touch with ex-bishop later jailed for abuse’, 20 July 2018, theguardian.com).

Prince Charles told the inquiry of his deep regret at supporting a Church of England bishop later gaoled for sexual abuse of 18 teenagers and men. Prince Charles will become the global head of the Church of England whenever he ascends the throne.

“Peter Ball told me he had been involved in some sort of ‘indiscretion’ which prompted his resignation as my local bishop,” Charles wrote in his letter.

The Prince wrote that Ball had told him one individual had complained to police but the Crown Prosecution Service had taken no action.

While he had believed Bishop Peter Ball’s denials, Charles said that he had never sought to influence a police investigation.

“Events later demonstrated beyond any doubt, to my deep regret, that I, along with many others, has been misled,” Charles wrote. “It remains a source of deep personal regret that I was one of many who were deceived over a long period of time, about the true nature of Mr. Ball’s activities.”

Prince Charles wrote that his position had occasionally brought him into contact with prominent people who were later accused of serious wrongdoing. “Rather than rushing to private judgement I have always taken the view that the judicial process should take its course,’’ he told the inquiry through his letter.

He said he ceased all contact with Ball once the “true context and details’’ emerged against him at trial in 2015.

“My heart goes out to the victims of abuse and I applaud their courage as they rebuild their lives and so often offer invaluable support to others who have suffered,’’ he wrote (E. Whinnett, ‘Prince Charles’ deep regret over supporting Bishop Peter Ball who was later jailed for sex abuse’, 28 July 2018, news.com.au).

Continued Saturday – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 3)

Previous instalment – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 1)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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Top End Travels: The Tiwi Islands, the Catholic Church and King Joe of Melville Island

Darwin, Northern Territory

Lush mangroves, the spray of emerald water from the Timor Sea, the sense of the untainted: the journey to the Tiwi Islands, some 80 kilometres north of Darwin, was crudely advertised as one of the Things to Do in the Northern Territory. “Take the opportunity to have a truly fantastic day out. Visit Bathurst Island for this special day and a chance to view and buy Tiwi Island artwork and watch the grand footy final.”

The ferry service seemed a sloppy operation. Locals heading back to the Tiwi Islands new something visitors did not: do not bother pre-purchasing tickets. Do them on the day itself, and avoid the queue. On getting to Bathurst Island, the elegant wooden structure that is St. Therese’s Church is swarming with worshippers and guests: a wedding is about to take place.

Background reading on the Tiwi Islands lends one to squirming discomfort. They are glossily advertised as singular in their indigenous quality. But this count soon unravels. The populace on both islands, Bathurst and Melville, became witness to both the Catholic Church and the obtrusive efforts of roughing pioneers of the British Empire.

One such figure was Robert Joel Cooper, a figure who looks like a man who killed everything he came across. Anybody termed a pioneer in this particularly harsh environment would have to have a certain acquisitive tendency. What was seen, witnessed and met had to be possessed. His gravestone in Darwin’s ill-kept Gardens Cemetery suggests the flavour, reminding us of his known title of “King Joe of Melville Island”, “a man of courage and love for everyone”.

He had all the attributes of the ruthless frontiersman: patriarchy, a tendency to sow his not-so-royal oats, a capacity for a certain work regimen, a firm disciplinarian. He established the buffalo industry on Melville Island, extracting some thousand hides a year. He took an Aboriginal wife, Alice, in what seemed like a primordial gesture. One of his brood, Rueben, became a figure of sporting repute, adept and talented across a range of codes and ultimately minting history as a formidable player of Australian Rules Football, known colloquially in these parts as “footy”.

Cooper’s resume reads like that of any figure of conquest deemed important after the fact. His entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography shows suitable wildness, with hints of admiration from the authors. Along with this brother George Henry (Harry) Cooper and pastoral lessee E. O. Robinson, he ventured to Melville Island “despite hostile Aborigines.” He did not seem discouraged in being speared in the shoulder; if anything, it emboldened him to “to abduct four Tiwi Aboriginals.” While such acts might well have been seen as those of a traditional looter of specimens and possessions, the authors of the entry condescend to suggest that he “treated his captives kindly and learned their language.” (The rough pioneer as accomplished linguist?  Go figure). In 1905, Cooper became the first “settler” since Ford Dundas was abandoned in 1828, using twenty Port Essington Aborigines to allay the fears of any locals as to what his intentions might have been. The ruse worked; he established his name.

Cooper’s profile matched like attitudes adopted to the indigenous populace more broadly speaking. They were there to be used, abused and infantilised, their autonomy relegated to the level of trinket exotica. Indigenous parenting was effectively disregarded: the Chief Protector in the Northern Territory, by virtue of the Northern Territory Aboriginals Act 1910, became the “legal guardian of every Aboriginal and every half-caste child up to the age of 18 years” irrespective of whether the child had parents or other relatives. This came with the power to confine “any Aboriginal or half-caste” to a reserve or Aboriginal institution. In the Aboriginal Ordinance of 1918, the clutches of the Chief Protector were extended to Aboriginal females from birth to death unless married and living with a husband “who is substantially of European origin.”

Cooper the hunter was also Cooper the connected figure. The Catholic Church, through the figure of Father Francis Xavier Gsell, was convinced by him to focus on neighbouring Bathurst Island to set up a Catholic mission. The good Father got to work, landing on Bathurst Island in 1911 and buying rights to marry Tiwi girls. Fiancées and fathers were won over (again, the message of seduction and appropriation are never far) with cloth, flour and tobacco. With due boastful extravagance, Gsell would recall his time on the island in his memoir, Bishop With 150 Wives.

The influence of Gsell and the church has become part of a formidable public relations exercise executed by the Vatican, masking the effects of what came to be known as inculturation. Publications of praise such as Australia: The Vatican Museums Indigenous Collection, conveys the impression of church guardianship and preservation of Tiwi tradition. No tincture of irony is present in the work. The collection itself boasts an early set of Pukamani poles (tutini) from the islands, grave posts that had made their way into church possession.

Anthropologists were not be left out of the stealing game, and German anthropologist Hermann Klaatsch, the first anthropologist to successfully make his way to Melville Island on September 20, 1906, recounted several feats of theft of Pukamani poles, lamenting that, “due to the smallness of my boat I could not transport more examples.” The penny, he was relieved, never dropped. “Luckily, we remained unnoticed by the blacks in our grave violating enterprise.”

The account might have been somewhat different. A certain Harry Cooper, no less the brother of Joe, may well have distracted the islanders by firing shots over their heads while Klaatsch did his deed. “There, that sounds more like it,” wrote Marie Munkara acidly.

The lingering Catholic presence, through immersion with Tiwi custom as both imposition and adjustment, has left its own traumas. The missionaries used “psychological warfare,” insists Munkara, a process which “corroded our ancient beliefs.” And much more besides.

Having assumed the role of converters and educators, the Church mission on Bathurst Island would eventually be shown in its ghastly manifestations. Protectors, whether religious or secular, became ready abusers. In 1993, claims that some 40 children who had been to St. Xavier’s Boys’ School on Bathurst Island had been sexually abused by Brother John Hallett were reported. Two years later, he received a five-year jail sentence, one quashed five months later by the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal.

Cooper’s circle of intimates supplies a direct line to the spoliation of the Tiwi Islands, but more broadly, the indigenous population in the Northern Territory. Professor W. Baldwin Spencer, the anthropologist who became Chief Protector in 1912, stayed with the King of Melville Island at stages in 1911 and 1912 as he was conducting his own investigations. There was a meeting of minds: one appropriator to another.

Spencer’s 1912 report furnished the natives with a terrifying vision, executed with brazen cruelty towards children who had, by law, been executively entrusted into his care. “No half-caste children should be allowed to remain in any native camp, but they should all be withdrawn and placed on stations.” The mother should, as a matter of necessity, accompany the child “but in other cases, even though it may seem cruel to separate the mother and child, it is better to do so, when the mother is living, as is usually the case, in a native camp.” Unsurprisingly, Cooper, having obtained the confidence of Spencer, would himself be deputised in this less than protective role.

Visiting the Tiwi Islands has the discomforting effect of moving around in a historical zoo. The islands are haunted by Church, the Coopers, and civilisational predations. While the idea of the reserve is now regarded as a vestige of administrative barbarity, the Tiwi message and advertisement is one of false purity and the deceptively unspoilt. This has the effect of a museum feel with damaged artefacts. The wondering tourists with heavy wallets, backpacks, hats and sunscreen resemble the plundering pioneers of old. This time, instead of abducting native residents and doing a spot of grave robbing, they prefer to purchase the art.

Idealisation becomes hard to ignore; the spectator and viewer effectively participate in an exercise of unwarranted elevation and the words of Klaatsch in his Ergebnisse meiner australischen Reise (1907) come to mind. “When you see the black man walking by, with his erect posture, his head decorated with feathers, with the spear in his right hand, then who cannot help form the impression that you have a ‘savage gentleman’ in front of your eyes, a king in the realm of the surrounding nature, to which he is so well adapted.”

The brochure language does little by way of improvement on Klaatsch’s observation. In fact, it replicates it as a timeless fib, a gallery caption. Instead of the “Island of Smiles”, you are greeted by dazed wanderers of the walking wounded playing out a distorted cultural play. In 1999, attention was brought to the fact that the Tiwi Islands was facing a suicide epidemic. The then resident medical practitioner, Chris Harrison, noted a number of instance: 100 attempts, meaning that 1 in 16 or 1 in 20 on the islands had attempted some form of suicide. Nothing to smile at, let alone induce cheer.

When suggestions were made that such rates might be attributed to the influences, amongst other things, of the Church and its predatory practices, officialdom fumed. As then Bishop Ted Collins explained with irritation, “I think they’re trying to put the blame somewhere outside the people rather than acknowledge that it’s happening within the people.” How ungenerous of them to think otherwise.

Beside the Bathurst Island cemetery are two men, seemingly hypnotised, finding shelter under a lonely eucalypt. They gaze aimlessly at a billy boiling over a roughly made fire. There are no fragrant smells of cuisine, no sense of culinary wonder. Instead, there is a distinct sound of eggs clanking against the rim, no doubt hard boiled to oblivion. On the island, there are no food markets or stalls of fresh produce. Food items, canned and frozen, are imported. It is the afternoon, and the islanders migrate from their homes to the various shady spots under suitable vegetation. Lit fires across the island send their bluish plumes towards the sea. The church, in its wooden majesty, is quiet but for the whirring fans. The guests have left, the singing done. We leave Bathurst Island with a sense of loss, and not a smile in sight.

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Dressed for the Fourth of July: The US Imperium Comes Out

The United States of Amnesia has occasionally found expression amongst those despairing at the state of historical consciousness in Freedom’s Land. Gore Vidal remains something of its high priest, his writings a pertinent scolding about what went wrong in the creation of a New Rome in the Americas. From Pilgrim’s Progress to the National Security State, the US became an empire with certain resemblances those of past: territorial acquisitiveness, a code of behaviour to observe and impose, a bore’s insistence on its exceptional qualities.

The word “empire” never really caught on, sealed fast from the cognitive capacities of the US academic and policy establishment. The US was meant to be different, and celebrating the Fourth of July was not intended as a boastful affair of chained slaves on parade, rumbling armaments and purpled victory. Besides, any course Washington had to power was, as Geir Lundestad, former director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, famously observed, invited, not imposed. (Such fine dissembling!)

This point is insisted upon by historians and international theorists alike who avoid the implications of US thuggery and predation: the US merely exerted a sort of hegemony by consensus and encouraged its citizens to spend, spend, spend; it was also, by definition, the only true hegemon (on this, see John Lewis Gaddis) in a world without genuine rivals, which was not the same as calling it imperial. Any urgings that the US empire come out of the closet were met with alarm by such figures as Robert Kagan, who insist that calling it such “would not only be factually wrong but strategically catastrophic.” The US enriched rather than pillaged.

For much of the Obama administration, the imperium adopted what might be called a form of cross-dress or at least a form of fancy dress. No one could be under any illusion what the Chicago lawyer was really up to: the lingering power of Empire required a less than subtle reorientation, or pivot, eastwards to stay the rise of Cathay. It also saw an expansion of such interventions by stealth, with a spike in the use of drone warfare.

Then came President Donald J. Trump, who has nursed dreams of tanks rolling and jets roaring during an official celebration since 2017, when he witnessed the spectacular of a Bastille Day parade. If the French President Emmanuel Macron could bask in such ecstatic celebration of civilisation, why not the US? But even the empire has its logistical limits: a ballooning budget to run such a show, for instance and the prospect of damage to roads. (US infrastructure continues to ail).

Trump’s Fourth of July “Salute to America” was a chance to right the ledger. The US Navy’s Blue Angels impressed; the crowds took their snaps. The New York Times penned its own observation, and not an approving one at that. “Flanked by Bradley armoured vehicles and M1A2 tanks in front of the statue of Abraham Lincoln, Mr Trump payed homage to the five branches of the military as a chorus sang each service hymn and he cued the arrival of fighter jets, helicopters and other military aircraft as they roared overhead.”

Had Trump the militarist come out? Retired Marine Col. David Lapan of the Bipartisan Policy Center caught eye of the tanks but considered them less than impressive “props”. Prior to the celebration, the issue of Trump unleashing tanks in display was seen with mixtures of orgiastic delight and an infantile terror.

The American Empire was gasping to come out of the closet, and dressed for the occasion, but Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, himself a West Point graduate who served in the 82nd Airborne Division, would have none of it. “Tanks aren’t props. They are weapons of war.”

As with all beacon-on-the-hill messages, Trump spoke of an idea rather than an entity, a heart welled up. “We are one people, chasing one dream, and one magnificent destiny.” Then came the dreaming – and so much dreaming it was. “We all share the same heroes, the same home, the same heart, and we are all made by the same Almighty God.” The US was a narrative of, and in, progress. “Together, we are part of one of the greatest stories ever told – the story of America.”

While such notes have a historical rhyming with the speech fare of other presidents, this one was different in backdrop and occasion. Previous stewards of the imperium have preferred to avoid the abject reality of the US as empire, preferring the quiet retreat, the humble commemoration. Doing so assists amnesia, reassuring the US citizenry that Washington remains against wars of conquest, toppling governments and preserving its power.

On this occasion, there was no return to the home state, no low key gathering. George W. Bush preferred West Virginia for four years running; visible, military filled bluster was put to one side. As Time Magazine noted, the bicentennial parade of 1976 saw hundreds of thousands in attendance, but President Gerald Ford preferred a golfing stint in Bethesda.

While Fox News tends to be an annexe of laboured unreality, its commentators were out to celebrate the admission about US military power, taking issue with the naysayers. Lou Dobbs of the Fox Business Network, in the true sentiment of the imperial sissy, was feeling particularly bullish. “No wonder these Snowflake General haven’t won a war since 1991: Military chiefs concerned about @realDonaldTrump’s July Fourth celebration.” Dobbs’ was on shaky ground in his enthusiastic reliance upon a source: a piece in the UK Daily Mail – hardly a paper of record – noting claims by an “insider” that “members of the military’s top brass have been hesitant about accepting Trump’s invitation to the event at the National Mall on Thursday”.

Admittedly, the military high-ups were in short supply, being on leave, travelling or simply not in attendance. The same could not be said for military families given invitations by Trump to attend the VIP section.

Trump was heartily warmed by the occasion, and duly said so. “A great crowd of tremendous Patriots this evening, all the way back to the Washington Monument!” This came with its usual theatrical alterations – or so it was alleged: no show is quite complete without a cosmetic touch-up to Trump’s images, though the accusers were suggesting a mauling of the original. Allegations of authenticity battled those of the inauthentic, and Trump merely garnered more publicity for the occasion. The one entity, undoctored and decked out in the whole war costume of celebration, finally let out into the open with frank vulgarity, was the US imperium.

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